What is Data Mapping?

As the name suggests, data mapping is a term for mapping the journey of data in an organization. It helps organizations visualize how data moves or flows within the organization.

The GDPR requires businesses to manage and secure their customers' data fairly and securely. Applying any form of security without thoroughly understanding the data lifecycle is difficult. That is why data mapping is a critical step toward GDPR compliance.

Data Mapping is all about tracking data from its origin to its destination within an organization to ensure its security, and you can visualize the data flow by asking the following questions about data management processes:

WHY do you process data?

WHAT data do you process?

WHERE do you store data?

WHO has access to your data?

HOW does data flow in your organization?

HOW do you collect data?

Organizations must understand what data they are collectinghow they are using it, and with whom they share it to improve their data privacy safeguards and ensure regulatory compliance.

This is also the key first step for an audit function.

Do I need to do Data Mapping?

Data mapping is NOT mandatory but a pillar to build a robust data privacy program. 

As you may recall, if you process personal data, you are usually required by the GDPR to keep formal, documented, comprehensive, and accurate RoPA (Article 30), and in fact, ROPA is expected to be based on a data mapping exercise.

Data Mapping allows you to identify data assets and associated risk levels and define their categories and intended uses.

With data mapping, you can classify and evaluate your data based on risk levels, allowing you to make the necessary investments to reduce your business risks while utilizing your resources most efficiently.

Key requirements of Data Mapping

  1. Record processing activities in electronic form so you can easily add, remove, and amend data.
  2. Check the records against processing activities, policies, and procedures regularly to ensure that they are accurate and up to date, and assign clear responsibilities for data mapping processes.
  3. For data minimization purposes, review your processing activities and data types regularly.

Healthy practices to maintain a data map

  1. Use a well-designed and easy-to-follow questionnaire.
  2. Identify key resources and stakeholders.
  3. Review related business policies and documents.
  4. Review, revise and update data maps regularly to ensure accuracy.

Data Mapping beyond compliance

Taking an inventory of your information improves your information management while complying with other areas of data protection regulation, such as creating a privacy statement and securing personal data. It is a simple way to demonstrate that you follow the principle of accountability, showing data protection authorities how you handle data in your organization when necessary.

Data Mapping is not just a compliance issue; it is strategic and allows you to manage your business risks. Since your data processing activities will be progressing regularly with Data Mapping, you will be able to avoid time and resource waste in your future data processing activities.

With data mapping, you will have a well-structured data management framework, defined and classified data, the ability to apply the appropriate data security level, and the ability to do effective risk management beyond compliance.

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