Why an Authentication Solution Is Crucial for GDPR Compliance

In response to the increasing cybercrime rates and inadequate private data management, the European Union (EU) adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation. Since the set of laws took effect in 2018, entities that offer services and collect data from users inside the EU must comply with its guidelines to ensure a reliable means of handling their customers’ information. With the exposure of sacred data at stake, the GDPR has been established as the strictest security law in the world, with severe consequences of non-compliance that can put your company's long-term viability in peril.

Fortunately, an implemented Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution, such as ZITADEL, can facilitate compliance by consistently implementing a mechanism to control access to users’ personal data: Thus, it can reduce the likelihood of cyber-attacks and data exploitation and simultaneously assist in avoiding expensive GDPR violations.

This article discusses the role of identity vendors in becoming GDPR compliant and the responsibilities of data processors and controllers.

Who does GDPR apply to?

Before we dive into what it takes to become GDPR compliant, it is crucial to establish if your organization is even subject to this legislation. For instance, you must be excluded from these regulations if your company is headquartered outside of the European Union and caters mostly to non-European customers, right? Not necessarily.

The GDPR applies based on the location of the individuals whose data is being processed and not the location of the firm itself or its customer-base. Accordingly, any business that offers goods to or tracks personal data of individuals situated in the EU would automatically be subject to the regulations: including small-businesses, commercial enterprises, nonprofits, and governmental bodies.

However, according to the European Commission, "if processing personal data isn’t a core part of your business and your activity doesn't create risks for individuals, then some obligations of the GDPR will not apply to you (for example the appointment of a Data Protection Officer ('DPO'))".

If the aforementioned criteria confirm that your business is covered by the GDPR, follow along to learn how to facilitate compliance with the help of an authentication solution.

Does implementing identity & access management make me automatically GDPR compliant?

Short answer: No. While an identity vendor serves as a significant stepping stone on your journey to compliance, it is ultimately only a part of the solution: As the data controller, you are still the entity responsible for the safety of your users’ data. Whereas this responsibility includes consciously choosing an identity solution that meets compliance requirements, you are nevertheless obligated to ensure that your own platform’s policies and functionalities are up to the standards of the GDPR as well.

“So, what else do I have to do to make my application compliant?” - Evidently, maintaining oversight of what your and your IAM’s responsibilities entail isn't always easy. To lend you a hand, the subsequent chapters elaborate on the different tasks of the data controller and data processor, respectively.

The Liabilities of the Data Processor

As the name suggests, your identity vendor is mainly responsible for processing sensitive data about your users’ identities. However, this seemingly simple main task entails a wide range of other liabilities, such as:

  • Ensuring that the processed personal data follows the privacy policy (cf. Privacy Policy) and the documented directions of the Customer.
  • Informing the Customer if they have violated the Agreement, the GDPR, or other data protection provisions and potentially suspending the Processing until the instruction is withdrawn or confirmed.
  • Ensuring that the people authorized to process the Personal Data have committed themselves to confidentiality.
  • Taking appropriate technical and organizational security measures, maintaining them for the duration of the Processing and updating them on an ongoing basis in accordance with the current state of technology.
  • Having the right to involve additional declared sub-processors subjected to the same data protection obligations. The Customer has the right to object to such changes and seek a mutual agreement with the processor.
  • Supporting the Customer as far as possible with suitable technical and organizational measures in fulfilling its obligation to respond to requests to exercise the data subject's rights.
  • Assisting the Customer in complying with its obligations in connection with the security of the processing, any notifications of personal data breaches, and any data protection impact assessments.
  • Deleting personal data received after the end of the agreement upon the Customer's request unless there is a legal obligation for the Processor to store or further process such data.
  • Providing the Customer with all information necessary to demonstrate compliance. It shall enable and contribute to audits, including inspections, carried out by the Customer or an auditor appointed by the Customer.

The Liabilities of the Data Controller

To make sure that not just your identity provider but also your application itself is GDPR compliant, you, as data controller, also bear some notable responsibilities:

  • Ensuring your vendors, including your identity provider, are fully GDPR compliant accounting for the transborder data flows.
  • Controlling and notifying end-users on consent and withdrawal of consent
  • Determining what data you wish to expose to your IAM
  • Ensuring that the end-users fulfill the requirements for signing up
  • Providing their end users with the ability to retrieve, review, correct, or remove (delete) their personal information
  • Answering end users’ privacy-related requests and communications from the European Union Data Privacy Authorities
  • Notifying end-users about data breaches

An easy way to evaluate your current compliance status and detect any problematic data management procedures is by using the official GDPR-Checklist for data controllers.

In Conclusion

Organizations that collect, process, or store data of EU citizens are obligated to comply with GDPR. Most of the personal identifiable information is closely linked to your users’ digital identity. Safeguarding access to this highly sensitive data and lifecycling the information according to the regulations is a challenging task. Turnkey identity solutions like ZITADEL can help you ease the work that has to be done on your side to protect personal information, manage access, and stay compliant to regulations.

As a Swiss authentication vendor, ZITADEL is completely compliant with GDPR standards and provides the same degree of data security as the EU. The platform’s Data Processing Agreement handles obligations to process personal information as well as consumer demands regarding their privacy rights. Furthermore, this IAM aids compliance by centralizing all information related to digital identities and permissions and providing you with an audit record of every interaction with the system.

When deciding how to operate your ZITADEL instance, you have the option to self-host ZITADEL to reduce the number of sub-processors and the associated supply chain risk. Alternatively, you can choose to rely on the state-of-the-art operational security in our cloud service to keep your end-user data safe.

Click here to learn more about how ZITADEL can help your company with GDPR compliance.

Liked it? Share it!