The rise of Privacy By Design: 7 principle data standards in product development
Posted: February 2, 2024
Prioritizing privacy and the security of data is intrinsic to both thriving and excelling in the contemporary digital world. Especially when data breaches and online surveillance have become increasingly prevalent, undertaking precautionary and preventive measures that keep privacy risks at bay becomes crucial for compliance and brand reputation.
As consumer investment in privacy has proliferated, businesses have rapidly started embracing privacy-enhancing measures to mitigate internal and external data privacy risks.
There is no silver bullet to solving privacy issues of all kinds and needs in varied situations. Considering various key points like adaptability, reactive or proactive approach, resource intensiveness, and responsibilities (whether of organizations or consumers), privacy measures can be of varied types.
In this blog post, we explore one formidable solution that strikes out at all points and favors the empowerment of privacy.
What is Privacy By Design?
The privacy by design approach integrates privacy into the product right from the beginning and ensures privacy is considered at every stage of development, from design and development to deployment and ongoing maintenance. It ensures products or services offered by a company adhere to data protection regulations and meet rising demands for higher levels of consumer data privacy.
The privacy by design concept was first introduced in 1995 as a set of seven principles. Later on, it was adopted by the Federal Trade Commission in a privacy report issued in 2012. It required data-driven companies to embed privacy protections at every stage of a business system or process. These seven principles are as follows:
Proactive, not reactive; Preventive, not remedial
The difference between a proactive and reactive approach lies in how privacy concerns associated with a product or service are dealt with.
A proactive approach entails addressing privacy concerns from the get-go and prioritizing the implementation of privacy considerations into the design process of a product from the beginning.
On the contrary, a reactive approach entails solving privacy concerns when a product is launched with full functionality and privacy concerns like data breaches become apparent on the go as the product is made available to use for consumers.
Privacy as the default setting
Privacy as the default setting argues that privacy should be placed at the forefront of every data processing activity, thereby ensuring automatic protection of user privacy without relying on their active management.
The privacy by default approach shifts the burden of configuring privacy settings from users themselves to developers, who embed privacy protections into the core functionality of systems.
Privacy as the default setting encompasses restricting data sharing with third parties, implementing the data minimization principle, deleting data when no longer used, and, overall, processing data legally.
Privacy embedded into design
Privacy should blend with the system as its core functionality, not as an afterthought. It should be bolted into the entire system development cycle; as such, it runs from concept creation to implementation and ongoing maintenance.
Strong security measures like encryption, access control, and data minimization should be weaved into the very fabric of a system, ensuring inseparability from both the architecture and business essence.
With a user-centric focus, embedding privacy into the design enables user control and transparency. Designers must simulate scenarios in which the availability of clear options and tools for the management of privacy can affect users’ interactions with the product or system.
Full functionality – Positive-sum, not Zero-sum
The full functionality principle suppresses the notion that privacy and functionality must always result in zero sum, where there must be trade-offs between privacy and user experience.
Organizations that integrate privacy into every design element of their system attract more privacy-conscious customers and build trust. Systems designed with a positive-sum approach, where full functionality goes hand in hand with robust privacy measures, leverage privacy as a market mover in a data-driven economy.
For example, an intrusive cookie pop-up just for legal compliance purposes only ends up repelling users. The website can replace the aforementioned with a user-friendly cookie banner offering granular cookie control. Granular consent banners increase the rate of consent acceptances. Although some cookies declined, website analytics do not change much, demonstrating user choice doesn’t always compromise functionality.
End-to-end security – Lifecycle Security
It is the responsibility of an organization to protect the data it handles. Privacy by design ensures the security of user data throughout the processing lifecycle, from collection, storage, retention, use, and eventually to the disposal point, where data deletion or archival occurs after its intended purposes have been served.
Privacy alone doesn’t suffice for the protection of data; security must tag along. Privacy by design relies heavily on security best practices to provide end-to-end data protection. It ensures the confidentiality of data by retaining its original form and making it accessible to the company for the period obtained from users.
Visibility and transparency – Keep it open
Customers should be openly told how an organization intends to process their data. The privacy by design approach, in adherence to data protection laws like GDPR, requires well-written privacy policies in place.
The visibility and transparency principles of privacy by design emphasize the significance of documenting and communicating actions related to privacy in a clear, consistent, and transparent manner.
Clear documentation serves as a reference point for both the internal team and external stakeholders to understand the privacy-related activities of the project thoroughly.
Consistency ensures uniformity in the application of privacy controls throughout the project lifecycle.
Transparency, enabled by clear and understandable privacy policies, helps users make informed decisions. Sharing data handling practices with users builds accountability and trust.
Respect for user privacy – Keep it user-centric
Respect for user privacy goes beyond mere compliance with regulations. It involves keeping users’ interests and other rights top of mind, along with equipping the product or service with privacy-enhancing features like granular control options to protect such interests.
Organizations can make the best decisions if they evaluate whether they should collect or use user data from the user’s perspective.
Respect for privacy shapes every action pertaining to data-driven decision-making, prioritizing privacy first for the best user experience. It includes empowering users to manage what happens to their personal information as well as actively seeking their engagement in the process.
Privacy By Design under GDPR
Similar to classic “privacy by design” principles, a version of privacy by design is also enshrined as a legal requirement under Article 25 of the GDPR. The section of the GDPR requires “data controllers” to implement “data protection by design” and “data protection by default” at appropriate points in the product development cycle.
The GDPR also requires the processing of only personal data for specific purposes. In other words, it limits the processing of personal data, the extent of processing, the period of storage, and accessibility to data to only what is necessary. Appropriate technical and organizational measures must be put in place for it to happen by default, and Article 30’s documentation requirements concerning privacy by default must be met.
Time frame of privacy by design
Article 25 requires controllers to do both:
When deciding how to process personal data, and
When processing personal data.
Considerations in the limitation of Privacy by Design:
The state of the art (the current level of technical development);
The cost required for implementation;
The nature, scope, context, and purposes of processing; and
The risks to rights and freedoms posed by the processing (including privacy, freedom of expression, and any other relevant rights), both in terms of:
Likelihood of risks, and
Seriousness of the consequences if risks arose.
Conclusion: Privacy by design is the future
In the digital realm, the ability of a company to secure its data transcends mere compliance with regulations to safeguard brand equity. The rising demand for data protection and privacy rights among consumers makes it more compelling for companies to establish a privacy-by-design culture.
As customers themselves are now placing increased value on their data, companies should brace themselves with robust data privacy measures, implementing privacy by design principles. Privacy by design is a game changer for everyone, especially for data controllers who fall under the scope of the GDPR.
Download our ‘data myths and misconceptions’ research report
Read our research report to understand why U.S. consumers have concerns about the security of their personal data, as we cover:
Popular data protection measures and whether or not consumers find them to be effective
The levels of awareness regarding the amount of information that companies can collect about consumers
If consumers are keeping up to date with data privacy laws
How organizations can build customer trust by respecting data and being transparent with their consumers