Do US Companies Need to Comply with GDPR?
By Matt Brennan
The question of whether US companies need to comply with GDPR can be a complex one, and depends on who your customer base is. First, it helps to explain a little more about what GDPR is, and who it protects.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation requires organizations to safeguard the data that they collect and protect their residents’ data rights. The law is designed to give EU residents more control over how their personal data is used.
But what does this mean for companies that aren’t within the borders of the European Union? Which companies are required to follow these guidelines? The short answer is that US companies need to pay attention to this law as well because the law is written to protect the rights of European consumers – even in a commercially global society.
What US Companies Need to Do to Comply with GDPR
If your company collects any personal data of European Union residents, you’ll need to comply with GDPR. The data could be as simple as the email addresses in a marketing list, or IP addresses of the people who visit your website.
The way this could be enforced is through the help of foreign governments through mutual assistance treaties, or other mechanisms.
What US Companies Can Do to Maintain GDPR Compliance
- Audit Your Data Collection Practices to Look for European Personal Data – It’s important for businesses to have a firm understanding of what personal information they collect, and whether any of it belongs to EU residents. If you do find this information within the scope of your audit, it’s important to take the necessary steps to become GDPR compliant.
- Begin Telling Customers Why You Process Their Data – If you process data based on user consent, you’ll need to be transparent about the information with your data subjects (the owners of the personal data you collect).
- Evaluate How You Process Data So You Can Improve – Once you understand how your data is collected and processed, you can begin to make the appropriate adjustments required to protect EU residents and maintain GDPR compliance.
- Create a Data Processing Agreement with Any Vendors – The data controller can be held partially responsible if your third-party clients violate any GDPR guidelines. A data processing agreement can help you clear up any gray areas. This includes subcontractors, email providers, cloud storage, or anyone holding onto third-party data.
- Appoint Someone Within Your Organization as Data Protection Officer – Larger organizations are required to appoint someone to this position to monitor their use of data.
- Designate an EU Representative – Some larger non-EU companies may be required to designate a representative based in the EU to manage data.
- Understand Your Role in a Data Breach – Sometimes the worst-case scenario might be inevitable. In the event of such cases, the use of encryption, and strong security measures can reduce your fines and your notification obligations in the aftermath.
Following these Steps to Maintain GDPR Compliance
American companies that process the personal data of EU residents are required to comply with GDPR. By following the steps above, you can protect the personal data of EU residents and all data subjects. This can help you avoid scrutiny from EU regulators.