Data protection: SA companies need to take a global stance

Featured

how-to-comply-with-the-data-protection-act-457501399With the implementation of the EU’s data protection laws just around the corner, local entities need to study up on how it could affect them.

D-day for implementation of the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is just three months away – and South African organisations are by no means off the hook.

If you are a South African entity that handles individuals’ personal data, you will be acutely aware of our country’s data protection law – the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act – but have you considered how the looming GDPR affects the way you manage clients’ personal information?

The fact of the matter is, if you are a locally-based business that offers goods or services to EU customers, you also deal with personal information or data relating to EU citizens’ – and you are just as responsible for complying with the GDPR as any EU business.

Leon van der Merwe, head of digital at customer communication firm PBSA, points out that any entity controlling or processing data relating to EU citizens is affected by the GDPR. “Controlling refers to any organisation that states why and how data is processed, while a processor is any party doing the actual processing of the data, whether based in the EU, or not.”

GDPR vs POPI

Van der Merwe says it is crucially important for local companies with dealings abroad to do their homework and familiarise themselves with the GDPR’s ground rules. “Companies could be fined heavily under GDPR regulations if they fail to provide evidentiary and auditable processes, as well as adequate IT security, to protect personal data.”

The GDPR is a regulation borne out of the European Parliament, Council of the European Union and European Commission’s joint intent to strengthen and unify data protection EU citizens.

Non-compliance with the GDPR comes with a hefty fine of up to €20 million (about R290 million) – or 4% of annual sales.

Similar to SA’s POPI Act, the GDPR is all about data protection. Data includes things like a person’s name, email address and phone number, as well as information collected by website cookies like internet browsing habits.

Breaching rules laid out in the POPI Act comes with a R10 million fine and/or a jail sentence.

Van der Merwe summarises the parallels between the two data-protection directives: “POPI and GDPR are similar, in that they both aim to strengthen the protection of personal information. They differ in their approach, in that the GDPR takes a wider, more global perspective that includes anyone, anywhere either controlling or processing – or both – data relating to EU citizens.”

Auditable business processes

A big part of compliance, when it comes to both the POPI Act and the GDPR, specifically involves audit trails – something PBSA’s digital signature and workflow product, SignFlow, is heavily centred on.

For evidentiary purposes and in order for any company to assert GDPR compliance, the automated management of an audit trail is imperative.

Van der Merwe says SignFlow is can assist customers in their strategy to automate and digitise processes in a responsible and compliant manner. “Business Process Automation is at the forefront of our technology development at SignFlow, including tools like DocFlow, CaseFlow and our digital customer on-boarding tools.”

At the core of SignFlow, he says, is Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). “PKI manages users’ private keys, and signs and secures documents using Public Key Cryptography. Not only does this make documents tamper-evident after they’ve been signed, but the entire operation is conducted in a secure network over encrypted secure socket layers between the public, personal devices and private servers.”

Unlike paper files and systems managing email attachments, this portal fully controls and audits the workflow and communication channels between interacting parties. “This greatly reduces the risk of data leaks,” says van der Merwe.

“The system enhances non-repudiation, creating a digital trail of undeniable events that prove intent and identity.”

With GDPR set to come into effect on 25 May 2018, and the high stakes attached to non-compliance, South African companies simply cannot afford not to take a global view on data protection. “The protection of personal information goes far beyond just the POPI Act for local companies dealing with international customers,” says van der Merwe.

 

[REFERENCES]

  1. Digiday – For the GDPR-curious: WTF is the Article 29 Working Party?
  2. The Digiday Guide to GDPR (PDF)
  3. The Sun – What is GDPR, what does it stand for, when is the deadline in 2018 and how can you check if a business is compliant?
  4. Michalsons – What does the GDPR mean for the POPI Act?
    POPI commencement date or POPI effective date starts the clock
  5. Wikipedia – General Data Protection Regulation
  6. IOL – Protection of Personal Information Act soon to become a reality
  7. ITWeb – Unpacking the POPI Act: The ins and outs of protecting personal information

Electronic signatures vs digital signatures

Featured

SignFlow LogoWhile many consider electronic signatures and digital signatures as interchangeable terms and, indeed, use them as such, this is not the case. In fact, the two phrases have vastly different meanings – and the respective technologies very different bearings.

Leon van der Merwe, co-founder of workflow and digital signing solution SignFlow, explains: “Depending on where you are in the world, ‘electronic’ -and ‘digital’ -signatures are often mixed in conversation and in law. Although described in unison, they are different technologies, have different meanings and in most countries carry a vastly different legal weight.”

So, what exactly is the difference?

Let’s start with the most commonly used of the two, electronic signatures. An electronic signature (also referred to as an ordinary electronic signature) can be as basic as a scanned image of a wet (hand-written) signature that is copied onto a signed document. These types of signatures are difficult to maintain and proof of identity, security, authentication and integrity is low.

Electronic signatures are often created by hardware signing devices, such as signature pads, which create an image of the signature as a person draws it on the pad.

This image is then transferred onto the document. Verifying the authenticity of the signature at a later stage is difficult and much the same as trying to verify a handwritten signature.

These signatures do not have the ability to lock documents for editing after the signing process. There is no active verification capability built into the applied signature area, leaving it open to fraud and repudiation.

On the other hand, a digital signature (also known as an advanced, standard or secure electronic signature) is based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology using accredited personal X.509 digital certificates to provide the highest levels of security and universal acceptance.

Digital signatures are created using a cryptographic operation that creates a hash-code unique to both the signer and the content, so that it cannot be copied, forged or tampered with.

This process provides strong proof of the signer’s identity, protects the data integrity of the document and provides non-repudiation of signed documents.

Digital signatures can be verified without the need for any special proprietary software. Depending on the format of your document, the latest versions of free Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office application can verify the signature. Simply click directly on the digital signature to view the properties, signer’s identity, time and reason for signing – all of which are embedded in the document.

SignFlow only uses Digital signature technology. Every signature on a document signed with SignFlow is a Digital signature that carries the unique cryptographic credentials of the signer.