Corporate Data Policy
Among the many policies and procedures that make up a company’s charter is a corporate data policy. This refers to guidelines and rules that are designed to manage how all of the company’s data is handled and used.
Why Do Companies Need a Corporate Data Policy?
Given the huge amount of data that companies today produce, acquire, and use, having a corporate data policy can ensure that all of that data is managed in a consistent way with clear guidelines that can be instituted across the organization.
There are plenty of situations that might arise in which having a data policy in place will save time and can prevent arguments and even legal disputes. For example, when a data analytics team requires a large amount of sensitive data quickly, the compliance team can rest assured that there is a policy in place ensuring that necessary controls to protect that data are being followed.
In addition, having such a policy in place means there is a clear protocol to follow when new data sources are introduced. Rather than reinventing the wheel each time a particular department onboards a new software, they know exactly what steps to take to ensure that the new data is managed properly.
What Should be Included in a Corporate Data Policy?
While the exact policy will depend on the company’s unique characteristics, culture, and needs, the following are the general elements that most policies will include:
The policy should start out with a clear statement of its objective. This is likely to be along the lines of protecting the privacy of clients, employees, and proprietary information and ensuring that company data is not used for nefarious purposes.
It is important to clarify exactly which types of data are covered by the policy and for what purposes, including:
- Which departments’ data does the policy apply to? Does it include the HR department’s personal information about employees or is this policy specific to data related to orders and invoices? This, of course, will also be highly dependent on the specific industry and business.
- Does the policy apply from the date it is created going forward, or is it also retroactively applied to past data?
- How much flexibility do employees have to suggest new ways to use data and what types of permissions might they need to be able to do so?
Included in the policy should be a designated person or team responsible for the implementation. This could be the Chief Data Officer or another designated manager who will be the point-of-contact for any questions and will have ultimate responsibility over the execution of the policy and ensuring that it is being adhered to.
The crux of the corporate data policy is obviously how to manage the data itself, including the following key points:
- Data Ownership – this section should clarify who/what entity is the owner of each type of data collected and is especially important for any company that may share or sell data to third-parties.
- Data Collection – this refers to the entire process of gathering data from different sources, and the rules for verifying and labeling each type of data.
- Data Access and Disposal – in this section, there will be guidelines about who has access to each type of data and how data can be shared (i.e. does it remain on one server or can it be copied to other places). This section also includes information about deleting data once it is no longer needed.
As AI becomes mainstream, corporate data policies will need to address the ways in which AI can and should be used to manage or manipulate data. There are ethical issues to consider, and each company will have to examine and refine their own perspective on how to best use the technology in line with their corporate values.
The data policy should include a section explaining how it conforms to and complies with any other existing privacy policies that the company already has in place. It may also include additional information specifically related to the protection of individual privacy in the handling of data.
Once the policy is written, it should be approved by the company’s CEO and board of directors. In order for the policy to successfully be implemented, there must be complete buy-in and support from upper level management.
A Word of Advice
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