Earlier this year, the White House announced that it is working with the European Union on a Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework. According to a White House statement, this framework will “reestablish an important legal mechanism for transfers of EU personal data to the United States. The United States has committed to implement new safeguards to ensure that signals intelligence activities are necessary and proportionate in the pursuit of defined national security objectives, which will ensure the privacy of EU personal data and to create a new mechanism for EU individuals to seek redress if they believe they are unlawfully targeted by signals intelligence activities.”

This is encouraging news. As The National Law Review pointed out, the EU had concerns about the protection of their citizens’ data from U.S. government surveillance. But it may also be the push needed to advance greater data privacy protections in America.

“The joint statement references the U.S. putting in place ‘new safeguards’ to ensure that intelligence activities are ‘necessary and proportionate’, the definition and practical application of which will be one of the things that privacy campaigners will be looking at closely when the detailed text is drafted and made available,” said Stephen Bailey of NCC Group in an email comment.

Data Privacy and AppSec

The world runs on apps, so it is necessary to look at how the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework will impact app development and app security.

“For application developers, the single biggest challenge to complying with increasingly rigorous data protection frameworks is getting control of their data, particularly sensitive and personally identifiable information,” explained Chris McLellan, director of operations at the nonprofit Data Collaboration Alliance.

Today, every new app, whether bought or built, traps data in a silo, which can only be connected through the exchange of copies or point-to-point data integration.

“These copies make it incredibly difficult—and in some cases, even impossible—to support GDPR outcomes like ubiquitous data access controls, portability, custodianship, deletion (the right to be forgotten) and precision auditability: Things that could potentially, although they’re unlikely to, be included in the post-Privacy Shield framework. But they are definitely looming on the horizon both internationally and domestically, for example, in California and Utah,” said McLellan.

As data privacy frameworks become more common and we begin to see more joint efforts internationally, organizations have to think about how they share and store data in the future, taking compliance requirements into greater consideration.

Organizations need to get more serious about minimizing their use of data and start implementing strategies that introduce real control to the data they manage, McLellan says. They should be exploring ways now to eliminate data silos and copies that have resulted in rampant data proliferation.

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No Quick Fixes

But, as McLellan pointed out, there are no quick fixes. Unwinding years of “an app for everything and a database for every app” mantra will be difficult, and McLellan believes this is best approached in two stages.

Stage One: Immediately treat the symptoms of data proliferation by evaluating and adopting privacy-enhancing technologies that help organizations anonymize and encrypt data, and better manage consent. “They should also investigate the potential to adopt first-party and zero-party data collection practices that redirect customer and other sensitive data away from the third-party apps (e.g. Google Analytics), over which they have no control,” McLellan explained. “Organizations should also adopt processes and workflows that help them establish ‘purpose-based’ data access requests.”

Stage Two: Organizations should explore ways to address the root causes of data proliferation. Everyone within the organization’s technology teams—CIO, CDO, application development, data and IT teams—should familiarize themselves with emerging frameworks like zero-copy integration, a framework that is on track to become a national standard in Canada.

“It’s the evolution of privacy-by-design and signals the beginning of the end for application-specific data silos and copy-based data integration. Such frameworks are made possible by new categories of technology, including data fabrics, dataware and blockchain that support ‘zero copy’ digital innovation. Many leading organizations, particularly in finance and health care, are already ahead of the curve in adopting this approach,” said McLellan.

Data protection regulations at home and abroad reflect a burgeoning global trend toward citizens and consumers gaining greater control and ownership of data as its rightful owner.

“These regulatory shifts,” said McLellan, “will need to be met by an equally significant shift in how U.S. businesses manage data and build new applications if there’s any hope to comply with new laws as they’re passed.”

Data Privacy: A runbook for engineers

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