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GDPR compliance: what you need to know, the rest is optional

Vanessa Frühbeiss
Updated on 03.04.2024

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has fundamentally changed the way companies in the European Union and beyond handle personal data. This article provides a detailed overview of the GDPR, explains its significance for companies and provides a practical checklist with 7 steps to ensure GDPR compliance.

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a central component of EU law and forms the basis for the protection of personal data within the European Union and the European Economic Area . Its main aim is to give individuals more power over their own data through comprehensive control options. At the same time, the rules for internationally active companies are to be standardized and simplified to enable the seamless and secure exchange of data across borders.

Who is affected by the GDPR?

Any company that processes the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of whether it is based in the EU or not, must comply with the GDPR. Those affected include:

  • Organizations outside the EU that collect personal information while offering goods or services to EU citizens.

  • Organizations that analyze the behavior of individuals within the EU.

What does the GDPR do?

The GDPR lays down precise guidelines for the handling of personal data and imposes strict compliance requirements on companies and organizations. The following key provisions form the core of the regulation:

  • Clear consent requirement: Before personal data can be processed, clear and informed consent must be obtained from the data subjects. This consent must be given for a specific purpose and can be withdrawn at any time.

  • Right of access: Individuals have the right to request information about whether and which personal data concerning them is being processed and, if so, to request access to this data and further information about its processing.

  • Right to rectification: If personal data is incomplete or inaccurate, data subjects have the right to request that it be rectified or completed without undue delay.

  • Right to erasure: Also known as the "right to be forgotten", this right allows individuals to request the erasure of their personal data, particularly if the data is no longer needed for the original purpose or if consent to processing has been withdrawn.

  • Specific rules for data transfers outside the EU: The GDPR imposes special requirements to ensure the protection of personal data when it is transferred to third countries. Accordingly, data transfer is only permitted if the recipient country offers a comparable level of protection or if appropriate guarantees such as standard data protection clauses or binding internal data protection regulations exist.

Violation of data protection

Failure to comply with the GDPR has serious financial and reputational consequences. The regulation stipulates that companies that violate its provisions can be fined heavily. These fines can reach up to 4% of the affected company's global annual turnover or alternatively up to €20 million, whichever is higher.

7 steps to GDPR compliance

The 7 steps to GDPR compliance provide clear guidance for companies to ensure they meet the strict requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation. Each step is critical to the security and lawfulness of data processing:

Step 1: Understanding the GDPR and its requirements

Before implementing digital solutions, it is crucial to develop a deep understanding of the GDPR. This also includes knowing the rights of data subjects and the obligations of data processors.

Step 2: Appoint a data protection officer

It is important to check whether your company needs to appoint a data protection officer. Companies that regularly process large amounts of personal data in particular should fill this position.

Step 3: Carrying out a data protection audit

A comprehensive audit of your data processing activities helps to identify potential risks to data security.

Step 4: Risk assessment and adaptation of processes

Assess the risks associated with your current processes and adapt them to the GDPR. This may include implementing additional security measures or changing the way consent is obtained.

Step 5: Update your privacy policy

Your data protection guidelines should meet the requirements of the GDPR and be easily accessible to all data subjects. Regular updates are necessary to comply with current standards.

Step 6: Train employees

Train your employees in the principles of the GDPR. Regular training is crucial to raise awareness of data protection and avoid breaches.

Step 7: Continuous monitoring and evaluation

GDPR compliance is an ongoing process. Implement mechanisms to continuously monitor and evaluate your data processing activities to ensure that they always comply with current data protection standards. Adapt your processes to new legal requirements or technological developments as necessary.


Compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation is essential for all companies operating in the EU or offering services to EU citizens. By implementing the above steps, companies can not only avoid fines but also increase the trust of their customers. Adapting to the GDPR may initially be a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity to review and improve data processing practices. A proactive approach to data protection compliance can give a company a competitive advantage and strengthen its reputation with customers and partners. Remember that data protection is not only a legal obligation, but also a key element of modern business that demonstrates respect and responsibility towards your customers' personal information.

FAQs on the GDPR

Do all companies have to appoint a data protection officer?
Not every company is obliged to appoint a data protection officer. This is particularly necessary for public authorities and companies that process special categories of personal data on a large scale or whose core activities consist of the regular and systematic monitoring of individuals.

As a data subject, how can I exercise my rights under the GDPR?
Data subjects can assert their rights, such as the right of access, rectification, erasure or restriction of processing, directly against the company responsible. Companies are obliged to respond to such requests within one month.

What is the right to data portability?
The right to data portability enables individuals to receive their personal data that they have provided to a controller in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format and to transmit this data to another controller without hindrance.

What role do signature providers play in GDPR compliance of digital signatures?
Signature providers play an important role in ensuring GDPR compliance of digital signatures, as they must ensure that their platforms and services comply with data protection regulations. This includes, among other things, the security of the data transmitted, compliance with consent requirements and the provision of mechanisms to ensure the integrity of digital signatures.

How can I ensure that the signature provider I have chosen complies with the data protection provisions of the GDPR?
To ensure that the signature provider you have chosen complies with the data protection provisions of the GDPR, you can first check whether the provider has the relevant certifications or proof of GDPR compliance. In addition, it is advisable to carefully review the provider's privacy policy and ensure that it complies with GDPR requirements. You can also ask the provider about their security measures, privacy policies and how they handle personal data to ensure that they comply with GDPR standards.

Where can I view the full text of the GDPR and get more information?
You can view the full text of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and get more information on the official website of the European Union . This comprehensive resource provides detailed insights into all aspects of the GDPR and serves as a reference for companies, organizations and data subjects concerned with data protection.

What factors influence the amount of fines under the GDPR?
The amount of fines under the GDPR is influenced by various factors, including the type of violation, the degree of fault, previous violations and the financial performance of the company.

Are there differences in fines for small and medium-sized companies compared to large corporations?
Yes, the GDPR provides for different fines for small and medium-sized companies compared to large corporations. While the amount of the fines can be significant in both cases, the regulation also takes into account the financial capacity of the company concerned when determining the fine.

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