Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)

What is a Privacy Impact Assessment?

A privacy impact assessment (PIA) is a procedure that aids organizations in the identification and minimization of the risks regarding the privacy of new policies or projects within the organization. It is a form of impact assessment that is generally conducted by an organization (e.g., government agency, corporations) that has access to a vast amount of private and sensitive data related to individuals in their systems. The organization audits its own procedures and assesses how their procedures may affect or compromise the privacy of the individuals and the data that is collected, held, or processed by the organization.

Why are Privacy Impact Assessments Conducted?

Privacy impact assessments are formulated to accomplish the following goals:

  • Assess the protections and alternative procedures to reduce possible privacy risks.
  • Establish the risks and effects of current organizational procedures.
  • Establish conformity with legal, required policies, and regulatory procedures needed for privacy.

Privacy impact assessments then lead to privacy impact reports. The report will provide information regarding the essential components of proposed procedures that deal with large amounts of private personal information. This then allows for the ability to establish the way in which privacy risks associated with the procedures can be managed in the most effective manner.

When Should Privacy Impact Assessments be Conducted?

Privacy impact assessments should be conducted when an organization is handling a large amount of personal information of clients or employees. This private information can include phone numbers, addresses, names, ages, and email addresses. A privacy impact assessment should also be conducted in cases in which an organization possesses information that is sensitive or when the current system that protects sensitive information is undergoing changes that may lead to a possible privacy breach.

What Are the Benefits of a Privacy Impact Assessment?

  • There are several benefits that are associated with conducting privacy impact assessments. These benefits include:
  • Provision of a system that allows for an early warning that privacy may be breached, implement safeguards, and prevent future privacy issues.
  • Avoidance of costly or detrimental privacy blunders.
  • Provision of evidence for an organization that they attempted to prevent and protect against privacy breaches. This allows for the reduction of damage to reputation, negative publicity, and liability.
  • Enhancement of informed decision-making procedures and processes.
  • Aids the organization in gaining the confidence and trust of the public.
  • Demonstrating to employees, customers, citizens, and contractors that the organization takes their privacy very seriously.

4 Steps of a Privacy Impact Assessment

  1. Initiation of Project - Define the range of the privacy impact assessment process, which will vary by organization.
  2. Data Flow Analysis - Mapping out the suggested business procedure regarding private personal information and developing a diagram that visually displays how the information will flow through the organization.
  3. Privacy Analysis - All employees exposed to private information must complete privacy analysis questionnaires and discuss the issues regarding privacy and confidential information.
  4. Privacy Impact Assessment - Development of a documented assessment of the risks related to private information and possible implications of the risks. This also includes developing a procedure regarding preventing and reacting to potential privacy leaks or breaches.

Learn more about other compliance-related regulations like GDPR and COPPA.

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