How social organisations can meet rising data protection requirements despite limited resources
Hacker attacks due to inadequate IT infrastructure and the threat of hefty fines for violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Organisations that deal with personal data are increasingly exposed to significant risks. Surprisingly, the greatest risks and challenges are faced by welfare associations and social organisations.
Why supporters become easy targets
The reasons behind it? Social institutions and associations, for example, support individuals with health impairments or assist in personal emergencies. The spectrum of their services includes elderly care, hospice services, child, youth and family assistance, psychological support, offerings for individuals with disabilities, medical transportation, emergency services, and much more. For each of these services, helpers must process sensitive personal data – especially health data.
These data are highly prized by hackers for digital extortion. Furthermore, they are often particularly easy for hackers to acquire from welfare associations and social organisations, as these entities frequently lack a modern IT infrastructure with the highest security standards. This has many causes:
- Lack of Investment: Unlike many for-profit companies, non-profit organisations typically have poorer IT infrastructure.
- High Complexity: Organisations with numerous local branches and subsidiaries often have granular network structures and no comprehensive overview of their sensitive data.
- Staff Shortages: Qualified IT and data protection experts are scarce - welfare associations compete with private companies for a limited pool of specialists.
- Lack of Risk Awareness: Much of the work in these associations is carried out by volunteers who dedicate their free time without undergoing regular pre-training and ongoing training in data protection.
- Limited Resources: Helpers and time are scarce. Therefore, the available resources should not be further burdened by data protection measures.
Sara Tardu, legal clerk at ASB Bremen
"It was important for us to have a complete overview at all times. In order to centrally ensure data protection in all our local branches and subsidiaries, we deliberately opted for digitisation and privacy-as-a-service"
Data protection is essential for people's trust
This is why it is of paramount importance for the work and the future of charitable organisations. This sentiment is confirmed by Sarah Tardu from the Bremen regional branch of the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB). Tardu knows: “Data protection is essential for people's trust in our organisation.” Axel Schröter from the ASB regional branch in Schleswig-Holstein shares the same view, and like Tardu, he is also well aware of all the challenges mentioned above from personal experience.
“In the past, we had an internal data protection officer. He did good work but eventually wanted to step down from his position for personal reasons. Finding an affordable successor with expertise was practically impossible in the market. This, along with increasing regulatory requirements and the organisational complexity of our association, prompted us to look for an external and largely digitised solution," reports Schröter. Therefore, just like the Bremen regional branch, the ASB regional branch in Schleswig-Holstein also opted for a collaboration with DataGuard."
DataGuard offers several advantages:
- Reduced time investment,
- Support from a large team of experts,
- Regular internal audits,
- Comprehensive privacy overview with the documentation dashboard,
- And additional features of DataGuard's privacy platform provide relief and are genuine aids in daily operations.
The fundamental problem: Chronically limited capacities to meet continuously increasing demands.
Here we come to the crux of the matter: the charity sector suffers from a chronic shortage of staff in all areas. Not only do charities lack data protection and information security experts, but they also lack nursing and paramedical staff, childcare workers and many other professionals. Despite this, the need for secure and compliant handling of sensitive personal data continues to grow, and this trend is set to continue. This is because, following the enactment of the GDPR, the next regulatory changes are already on the horizon with the NIS2 Directive, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the EU Cybersecurity Directive.
For those in leadership roles within these associations, this means implementing the increasing demands for data protection and information security in a way that doesn't hinder or deter the few people available for the core activities of a charity. Given the often complex structures within the charity sector, this can only be achieved through intelligent digitisation solutions. To ensure its own future security, ASB's regional office in Bremen has also chosen DataGuard and implemented a comprehensive compliance solution: "It was important for us to have a complete overview at all times. In order to centrally ensure data protection in all our local branches and subsidiaries, we deliberately opted for digitisation and privacy-as-a-service," explains Tardu.
The solution: Complete automation and future-proofing
The goal of the two ASB regional offices is now clearly defined: with DataGuard, they want to quickly achieve the latest technological, legal and organisational standards in order to fully and sustainably meet all data protection requirements. The DataGuard solution is designed to do one thing above all else, save time and minimise their own efforts.
"DataGuard's privacy platform is designed to ensure that all data protection requirements are applied consistently and automatically across our organisation, without any loss of information," says Sarah Tardu, adding, "In addition, we can rely on expert support from the DataGuard team when we need it and build our own expertise through this collaboration, allowing us to respond more quickly and effectively to data protection enquiries, for example."
The platform also ensures that all compliance and privacy measures are always up to date. This, together with highly automated processes, reduces the responsibility of both management and staff in charities. At the same time, professionalised compliance increases people's trust in the organisations. This is what counts and what secures the future of charities.