Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA)

Last updated: 28 September 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

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  1. What is a Data Protection Impact Assessment? 
  2. When is a DPIA required? 
  3. What is usually included in a DPIA? 
    1. Provide a description of processing 
    2. Identify a legal basis 

What is a Data Protection Impact Assessment? 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) describes a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) as a process to help you identify and minimise the data protection risks of a project. 

It is a type of processing that would help businesses in identifying risks related to personal data processing. A DPIA would help towards demonstrating compliance in line with the accountability principle.  

When is a DPIA required? 

The GDPR states that a DPIA is required where a data controller is to process personal data that is ‘likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons’ (GDPR, Article 35). A good way to illustrate this, is if new technologies were to be introduced which will affect the rights and freedoms of individuals. This is highly likely if the new technologies involve: 

  1. Systematic and extensive profiling with significant effects 
  2. Large-scale use of sensitive data 
  3. Systematic monitoring of publicly accessible data on a large scale 

The ICO have further provided examples of processing that is ‘likely to result in high risk’

For example, a DPIA would be required where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is being introduced in a business. The CRM would administer interactions with customers, which in turn can hold a lot of personal data, such as names, emails, addresses, dates of birth and interests. A DPIA would help determine the risks in this process and the thought process undertaken when determining outcomes and decision making. 

At times, it’s quite clear cut where one is required. In cases where it is not clear whether a DPIA is strictly mandatory, carrying out a DPIA is considered good practice and helpful in demonstrating compliance. After all, non-compliance would attract a penalty of the standard maximum amount of up to £8.7 million or 2% of the total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. 

What is usually included in a DPIA? 

The ICO website provides a sample template of a DPIA and what should be included. However, there is no strict way in how to carry out a DPIA and what it should contain, the following is a non-exhaustive list: 

Provide a description of processing 

  • What type of personal data you will be collecting? 
  • How will you be collecting, storing and or accessing the personal data? 
  • Who will have access rights to the personal data? 
  • Who will you share the personal data with and why? 
  • What technologies will you use for processing the data? 
  • What technical, administrative and organisational measures will you put in place to protect the personal data? 
  • The scope of the personal data and number of data subjects associated with the said personal data 

Identify a legal basis 

  • Consultation – speak with relevant functions involved in the process, and in some instances, you may need to seek the views of the data subjects unless there is a good reason not to. A record must be made of this. 
  • Assess necessity and proportionality – identify and assess the risks in your project. Depending on your risk scoring or outcomes, you need to document and establish your reasons for accepting any risk. 
  • Identify or introduce measures that will mitigate or eliminate risk – if you cannot mitigate high risk but wish to continue with your processing, then you must consult with the ICO. 
  • Recording decision making – include how you came to the decision and names and roles of those that were involved in the process. 
  • Review – the process needs to remain under review by testing its purposes against GDPR compliance. 

If you require further advice on how to conduct a DPIA, our specialist data protection lawyers can help. 

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