Let’s be honest: keeping up with privacy audits, regulations, and changing compliance laws can be exhausting. 

Even the most agile business can occasionally find itself falling behind on compliance, especially when it’s a matter of prioritizing more profitable initiatives.

It seems like new privacy laws are popping up every year. In 2023 alone, California, Connecticut, and Utah all have major regulatory updates scheduled to take effect. New regulations in Montana, Tennessee, Iowa, Indiana, and Texas are also in the works. Businesses that operate in the United States may be held liable not only to these laws but also to the GDPR, which applies to any company that collects data from EU citizens. 

When you combine all of these new data privacy laws with an ever-shifting technological and economic landscape, industry regulations, and other demands, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

While focusing on more manageable business objectives may be tempting, data privacy is a critical factor affecting your success. If your product or service is the thing that generates profit, your data privacy program plays a large part in protecting that profit and mitigating risk. 

So how can businesses combat privacy fatigue and build a sustainable privacy program? 

You can take several steps to combat privacy fatigue, and it starts with understanding why data privacy policies matter.

Privacy programs protect your company and build consumer trust 

Data privacy policies and their complementary data security programs are the cornerstone of protecting your sensitive company data and that of consumers. 

Companies found in breach of data privacy regulations can face devastating fines. 

  • Per California’s Consumer Privacy Act, the state can levy fines of $2,500 for each violation. Even if a company settles all fines with the state, private plaintiffs can still bring suit. 
  • Small violations of the GDPR can impose fines of up to €10 million. On the other hand, large infractions can result in fines of up to €20 million, or 4% of a company’s annual revenue—whichever is greater (and note that the GDPR applies to small businesses, too).
  • Canada’s PIPEDA can levy fines of up to $100,000 per violation, and provincial governments can impose additional penalties.

But let’s put those fines aside for a second. On average, organizations have to comply with 13 different IT security or privacy regulations. If your business runs up against a state, federal, or industry regulatory body, you could face additional audits.

That’s countless work hours for IT, legal, risk management, and other business departments.

Weeks of the year tied up in regulatory audits. 

Money down the drain, and hair-pulling frustration for everyone involved. 

Potential reputation damage. 

All things that nobody wants.

Privacy policies are especially critical for maintaining a positive brand reputation and consumer trust. Consider that:

  • 80% of customers are more loyal to businesses they see as having “good ethics”
  • 88% of customers won’t buy products or services from businesses they don’t trust
  • 33% of consumers have ended relationships with businesses over their use of consumer data

Whether it’s protecting your business or building consumer trust, there are good reasons to build a sustainable, effective data privacy program. Here are five tips to help you combat fatigue and build a data privacy program that works.

Five ways to combat data privacy fatigue

Data privacy is a marathon, not a sprint. In a marathon, the best runners set themselves up for success with a solid foundation of training and healthy habits. Without the right preparation, you’ll lose steam five miles into the race. Similarly, the best data privacy policies plan ahead and build in space to adjust their practices as needed so they can go the distance. 

  • Make privacy best practices the foundation of your privacy program 

For companies building a privacy program from scratch, it can feel like a big task. It’s tempting to want to focus on what you need right now and not worry about what’s coming down the turnpike. If the only (existing) privacy regulation that applies to your business is the California Consumer Privacy (amended), for example, why would you hustle after the Colorado Privacy Act, the Virginia Consumer Data Privacy Act, or the Connecticut Data Privacy Act? 

But here’s the thing to remember: when you build your privacy program compliance with just individual privacy regulations in mind, it is akin to painting yourself into the corner. You might have met all your requirements for that particular regulation, but it’s harder to respond with agility as the landscape shifts. 

On the other hand, when you make privacy best practices the foundation of your privacy program—and then use those underpinnings to help you meet privacy requirements—you reduce the amount of work involved over time.  Each new privacy regulation may have a small nuance you will need to evaluate, but it will not be a herculean effort each time to comply. 

  • Build a privacy policy that works for your business

Every business has different priorities, risks, and capabilities. Sure, you can pluck a privacy program template from the internet and call it a day, but will that actually help your business?

Take a critical look at your privacy policy and see what may not be the best fit for your needs. Is there another way to achieve data privacy standards? Are there unnecessary regulations that don’t apply to your business?

For teams with limited time and resources, like small businesses, consider a risk-based approach to prioritize and customize your data privacy defenses. Where is your team most liable? What exposures do you need to eliminate?

Instead of building a generic program, build one that actually, actively, protects your business and your customers. (You may need to execute a thorough data map to understand the big picture—an experienced privacy professional can walk you through the ins and outs of the process and how to get the most out of your results.) 

  • Establish governance

Say you agree that data privacy is critical and you’re ready to implement a stellar privacy policy. Great! 

Now… who’s going to be responsible for executing that initial policy, and maintaining or updating it in subsequent years?

Maintaining compliance can be a complex challenge, and there needs to be a company plan in place to address challenges as they appear. Within your privacy program, identify the processes, activities, and team roles that support:

  • Authority
  • Accountability
  • Assurance
  • Risk management

Write out the required resources and standards to support your plan. Do you have the staff you need, or do you need to partner with a third-party expert to design a more realistic policy? 

Not all companies have the resources for a formal internal audit role. Are there educational resources you can invest in for your employees to learn about data privacy? Or can you prioritize your next IT hire as someone with expert industry knowledge?

Even if you can’t achieve the privacy program you need immediately, you do need a plan for how you’re going to get there—trust us, it will make a difference.

  • Create efficient systems

Internal inefficiencies also contribute to privacy fatigue. Sit down with your data privacy and data security teams and figure out where the pain points are. Is there significant duplication of effort? Is there an unnecessary overlap in team scopes? 

Because data privacy and data security teams have similar competencies, they can often be tasked with nearly the same task from different parties throughout the year. If you can identify these duplicate responsibilities, then you can streamline operations and build better team workflows. 

Work with your IT teams to develop an annual audit schedule so that everyone can see upcoming events and build the best plan to tackle those projects. If you know that there are multiple audit projects happening in a year, then you can identify overlapping requirements and reduce the duplication of effort for all projects. 

  • Build annual reviews into your privacy program

In addition to a coordinated data privacy/security calendar, build annual reviews of your privacy documentation (including your privacy policy and privacy notice) into your privacy program. These reviews should occur at the same time each year. That’s because when projects are expected and predictable, teams can become familiar with the process and operate more efficiently. 

If you’re not sure what to include in your annual review, work with a data privacy compliance checklist to make sure you cover all your bases. 

Again, any tactics that reduce effort and create predictable workflows can reduce fatigue and help your team work through policy reviews in less time. 

When it comes to data privacy, you’re not alone

If you feel burnt out when it comes to data privacy, you’re not alone. It’s a known business phenomenon, especially in recent years with changing regulations. 

But the good news is that because this is a common issue, there are experts ready to help businesses beat privacy fatigue. Red Clover Advisors has the experience and industry knowledge to help you build a sustainable privacy program that works for your business, for where you’re at now, and as you grow. 

Schedule a call today to see what we can do for you.