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It should go without saying that just putting a privacy policy in place isn't enough. Monitoring and trending tactics need to be put in place as a final step to make sure you've got an effective privacy program in place. How do you decide what to monitor, how often to monitor and what to look for when you are monitoring? A monitoring program should begin with your compliance requirements and risks. What do the laws, regulations or mandates say you have to do? What do your contractual agreements obligate you to do? What duties have you made others responsible for? Are they doing what they are supposed to do, and can they produce documentation showing that?

Further, how are these things changing over time and is it possible to spot trends that should raise red flags about issues that could eventually create real trouble for your organization?

Look at the compliance requirements that apply to your organization and identify those items that your business area is personally responsible for; start there. If your privacy office is the business area responsible for sending breach notification letters within specific timeframes, make sure that you have a process in place to monitor that. If your office is responsible for ensuring that notices of privacy practices are posted to the Internet, then develop a process to monitor that the “notice” is posted everywhere that it should be. When setting up your monitoring process, look at any timeframes that may be applicable. Is there specific content, verbiage or documentation that is required? Are there best practice standards in the industry? What will an auditor or regulator ask for? The answers to these questions will be the base of your monitoring protocol. Every organization has limited budgets and resources, so start with monitoring items where you have the biggest risk.

There are a number of different ways to monitor: Surveys, interviews and mock audits are just a start. Make sure that your leadership understands what you intend to monitor, what the laws, regulations or contractual agreements obligate you to do and how you will be reporting the results of that monitoring to them. It is important to inform them of the program well in advance so that they have an opportunity to weigh in and have input into the process. You may want to start with a pilot program and test your monitoring processes, tools and resources with a small group first; make any necessary modifications before rolling it out to the entire organization.

Once you have a monitoring program, decide what trending you will need and how you will do that over time. Again, always start with your biggest risks. You will want to develop standardized reports or dashboards so that you can show any norms, issues or anomalies that pop up over time. Make sure that you understand the data so you can answer questions, and implement a corrective action plan for issues found. You will want to show trends over time so that you can see how effective your corrective action plan is and adjust it if needed.

Monitoring and trending is extremely essential to a mature privacy program. If you are just starting to monitor your program, remember to focus on your legal and contractual obligations first, and anything that is outside your direct span of control. The purpose of monitoring is to identify issues before they cause larger issues and are apparent to outsiders, including internal and external customers, business partners, or regulators.

Missed the first nine parts of this series? Find them here.

Written By

Deidre Rodriguez, CIPP/US


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