What is a DPIA? (Everything You Need to Know)

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what is a dpia

You may have heard the term DPIA thrown around here and there. So, you may be wondering, “what is a DPIA?” This question is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s data-driven world.

This article will cover why businesses should care about DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment), what is included in a DPIA, best practices, and additional considerations.

Let’s dive right in.

Key Takeaways

  • A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is used to evaluate the potential risks posed by activities involving collecting and processing potentially high-risk personal data.
  • It is important that organizations conduct regular DPIAs to identify, assess, and minimize any risks associated with their data processing activities.
  • When creating a GDPR-compliant DPIA, it is important to determine if one is needed to consult relevant stakeholders, assess the risk involved in collecting personal information, implement measures to mitigate that risk and document all steps taken during this process.

What is a DPIA?

Colin Levy, an award-winning author and author of “The Legal Ecosystem,” says:

“A DPIA, or Data Protection Impact Assessment, is a process designed to help organizations identify and minimize the data protection risks of a project or plan. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a comprehensive data protection law in the European Union.”

The purpose is to assess if an activity has enough safeguards in place to avoid infringing upon the rights and freedoms of individuals from whom you are collecting personal data.

The assessment process involves understanding the purpose of data collection and how it will be used, identifying potential risks to individuals’ rights, determining solutions for managing those identified risks, and planning steps for contingencies.

It is important that organizations identify a suitable data protection officer or compliance service who can thoroughly carry out the DPIA. 

After completion, key findings should also be documented and reported back to senior management so they have full visibility of current risk scenarios associated with processing activities under the GDPR.

By conducting DPIAs regularly, organizations can better protect their data and avoid any harm to individuals.

When is a DPIA Necessary to Do?

Generally speaking, a DPIA is required whenever an organization undertakes any kind of processing that poses a ‘high risk’ to the rights and freedoms of data subjects.

This can involve the use of large amounts of sensitive information such as criminal offense data, financial or social security numbers, or biometric data like fingerprints or iris scans.

Other scenarios that require a DPIA include using systematic and extensive profiling, which will significantly affect the rights of data subjects, or monitoring publicly accessible places on a large scale.

The GDPR also recommends considering performing an impact assessment when any new technology is being deployed, which changes the way personal data is processed, as well as whenever a type of profiling could have legal or similarly significant effects on individuals.

Why is a DPIA Important for Compliance

A DPIA is an important tool for businesses that must comply with data privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Levy states that:

“It’s a proactive measure to ensure that an organization is aware of the risks and takes steps to mitigate them.”

DPIA helps companies identify and evaluate risks associated with their processing activities. Your business can then implement measures to mitigate these risks, ensuring GDPR compliance and compliance with other data privacy laws.

The benefits of conducting a DPIA include:

  • Identify risks involved: A DPIA helps organizations identify and assess the potential impact of their processing activities on personally identifiable information (PII). The findings can then be used as a basis for drafting protective measures tailored to reduce such possibilities. 
  • Reducing the risk of penalties: Since DPIA helps organizations identify potential risks, it has the ability to reduce the risk of fines or penalties if GDPR violations occur. By identifying any potential risks ahead of time, businesses are able to proactively mitigate them before they become a bigger issue and incur financial penalties for not complying with data privacy regulations.
  • Improve customer trust: Levy says that “conducting a DPIA demonstrates to stakeholders, including data subjects, that the organization takes privacy and data protection seriously, thereby building trust.” Customers may be more willing to engage with companies they view as secure, which could lead to better business opportunities in the long term. 

Overall, conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment provides businesses with multiple benefits.

Not only does it help them comply fully with data privacy regulations, but it also allows them to identify potential risks before they become a bigger problem and improve customer trust in the organization.

What is Included in a DPIA?

Now that you know why a DPIA is important, let’s cover what is included in a DPIA.

A DPIA should start by providing an overview of the organization’s data processing activities that fall within the GDPR scope.

This includes information about what personal data is processed, why it is being collected and used, how long it will be stored (including who has access to it), and how the organization fulfills its data protection obligations.

The DPIA should also assess your relationship with the individuals you have data on, like whether they have any control over the data and what they expect the data to be used for.

The DPIA should then assess any risks associated with this processing. This includes an analysis of the effects of such activities on individual rights and an examination of any potential data security incidents or technical issues that could arise during processing. 

Businesses should also consider ways to mitigate these risks, such as implementing appropriate organizational and technology measures.

Finally, to complete a DPIA, you must sign off and record the outcomes with the data protection officer.

Best Practices for a GDPR DPIA

When it comes to creating a DPIA, there are some GDPR best practices that should be taken into account. Here is an overview of the best practices for creating a GDPR DPIA:

1. Determine if a DPIA is Needed

The first step to creating a GDPR DPIA is to determine if one is even needed.

To do this, businesses should assess their data processing activities and consider factors such as the extent of data processing, whether personal information is at risk or particularly sensitive, and whether there may be risks posed to individuals due to unauthorized access or data breaches.

If it looks like there are processing activities potentially considered “high risk,” then a DPIA should be conducted.

2. Consult with Relevant Stakeholders

When creating a GDPR-compliant DPIA, it’s important to consult with the relevant stakeholders and ensure that everyone involved in data processing understands their obligations.

This includes the data protection officer, IT team members, and any third-party vendors that may be involved in the process.

By consulting with everyone involved ahead of time (including the intended data subjects), businesses can gain an understanding of how everyone will be impacted by and may respond to a DPIA.

3. Completely Assess Risks

Conducting a thorough risk assessment to fully understand the data processing activity and any potential associated risks is essential.

Review all of the different aspects that could affect the data subjects – including physical security measures, technical measures, organizational processes, and procedures. This should be carefully considered when creating a DPIA. 

Part of this risk assessment step is considering potential breach scenarios for processing personal information. Businesses should assess the likelihood of these outcomes and develop an appropriate mitigation plan in advance. 

4. Implement Measures to Mitigate Risks

Once the risks of data processing have been identified, businesses should put measures into place to mitigate those risks and ensure that all GDPR requirements are met.

This might include implementing technical and organizational measures to secure any data collected, ensuring the collection of only relevant information, and providing appropriate notice about how personal information is used and secured.

Organizations should also regularly review their mitigation measures to ensure that the data remains secure at all times and update any outdated technologies or processes as needed.

5. Document All Steps

It’s also important to ensure that all of the steps taken in creating a DPIA and introducing mitigation measures are properly documented. This will help organizations remain GDPR-compliant by providing proof of their efforts if an audit is ever conducted or needed.

How Can Captain Compliance Help?

By setting up appropriate mitigation measures, businesses can ensure they stay compliant with data privacy laws and help build an excellent reputation around customer trust.

At Captain Compliance, we understand the importance of protecting customers’ privacy and data rights. That’s why we offer tailor-made compliance solutions for your business, so you don’t have to worry about DPIAs ever again. 

Contact us today for a free consultation, and let’s get started protecting data!


Who fills out a DPIA?

The data controller should ultimately be responsible for the commissioning, completion, and signing-off of Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA). It is also possible to outsource the DPIA to a third party.

However, with any outsourcing arrangements, it is still up to the data controller to ensure that supplies are managed and provide accurate assessments.

To facilitate this process, it is highly recommended to consult with a DPO or a data compliance solution like Captain Compliance. 

Find out what the difference between a data controller and a data protection officer is here.

Is DPIA required in the US?

Yes, the CPRA, VCDPA, and CPA all require covered entities to perform Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) when processing personal data.

However, the requirements of these laws vary from each other and from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so it is important for organizations to consult with knowledgeable legal experts in order to understand exactly how to conduct these DPIAs.

Get in touch with Captain Compliance to ensure GDPR compliance today.

Yes, conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is a legal requirement if the processing of personal data can result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires controllers who are carrying out such processing activities as defined by Article 35 to conduct a DPIA.

Learn all the key GDPR requirements to become compliant.

Who is accountable for DPIA?

Data controllers are ultimately responsible for complying with GDPR requirements, which include performing a DPIA when required. The primary responsibility in ensuring the adequacy and effectiveness of any data processing activity is placed on those who control the processing.

Here are the key principles of the GDPR.

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