In today’s interconnected world, the free flow of personal data across global digital networks has become a cornerstone of the modern economy. However, this new reality also presents unprecedented challenges in protecting individual privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a landmark piece of legislation adopted by the European Union (EU), addresses these challenges head-on. Effective from May 25, 2018, GDPR has reshaped the landscape of data protection by empowering individuals with greater control over their personal data and setting a new global standard for privacy rights. Its wide-reaching impact extends beyond the borders of the EU, affecting businesses and organizations worldwide that process the personal data of EU residents. Compliance with GDPR is not merely a legal checkbox but a fundamental aspect of building and maintaining trust with customers, underscoring the integrity of businesses in today’s digital marketplace.

Historical Context of GDPR: The Evolution of Data Protection

The path to the GDPR began decades before its enactment, rooted in Europe’s long-standing commitment to privacy as a fundamental right. The journey was sparked by the digital revolution and the consequent need to update and unify data protection laws for the digital age. Prior to GDPR, the 1995 Data Protection Directive served as the EU’s primary data protection legislation. However, as digital technology and internet usage surged, it became increasingly clear that a more robust and cohesive framework was needed to adequately protect personal data. After four years of intensive negotiations and deliberations, GDPR was born, replacing the outdated Directive and harmonizing data protection laws across all EU member states. This groundbreaking regulation not only strengthens the rights of individuals but also imposes stricter obligations on entities processing personal data, marking a significant leap forward in the global data protection regime.

Data Protected Under GDPR: A Broad Spectrum of Personal Information

Data Protected Under GDPR

Direct identifiers are clear and unmistakable pieces of information that can pinpoint an individual's identity without the need for any additional data. These identifiers are often shared during routine interactions, both offline and online, and GDPR mandates their full protection due to their sensitive nature.


  • Name: First and last names are the most basic form of direct identifiers. Whether used in a personal or professional context, names can directly reveal who an individual is.
  • Home Address: Physical addresses are not only linked to where a person resides but can also be used to access a wealth of other personal information.
  • Identification Numbers: This broad category includes social security numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, and patient identification numbers. Each serves as a unique identifier for an individual in various systems and databases.

Indirect Identifiers

Indirect identifiers may not immediately reveal an individual's identity on their own but can do so when combined with other information. GDPR recognizes the nuanced ways in which people can be identified and seeks to protect such data accordingly.


  • Racial or Ethnic Origin: This might include descriptors or data indicating a person's race or ethnicity, which could be used in conjunction with other data to identify someone.
  • Religious Beliefs: Information regarding a person’s religious affiliation or practices, often sensitive, can contribute to identifying them when pieced together with other details.
  • Sexual Orientation: This refers to data that could indicate an individual’s sexual orientation. Like other indirect identifiers, it requires careful protection due to its personal nature.

Online Data

The digital footprint left by individuals as they navigate the online world falls under GDPR's data protection principles, acknowledging the rich and revealing nature of online data.


  • Email Addresses: An email address can be a direct line to an individual and often serves as a gateway to further personal information.
  • Social Media Posts: Content shared on social media platforms, including photos, comments, and location check-ins, can collectively reveal detailed aspects of an individual’s identity and personal life.
  • IP Addresses: Although seemingly anonymous, an IP address can be traced back to an individual user, revealing their location and online activities.

Biometric and Genetic Data

Biometric and genetic information are highly unique to individuals, making them particularly valuable for identification purposes. GDPR ensures these data types are rigorously protected due to their capability to uniquely identify individuals.


  • Fingerprints: Used in various data security and identification systems, fingerprints offer a high degree of identification accuracy.
  • Facial Recognition Data: Facial recognition technology, increasingly used in security and personal devices, can precisely identify individuals based on facial features.
  • DNA: Genetic information is the ultimate identifier, containing detailed and highly sensitive data about an individual’s biological makeup.

Health and Sensitive Information

Sensitive data concerning a person's health or political beliefs is safeguarded under GDPR, acknowledging the profound implications such information can have on privacy and personal autonomy.


  • Medical Records: These contain detailed information about an individual’s health history, diagnoses, treatments, and potentially genetic conditions.
  • Political Opinions: Information about a person’s political affiliations or opinions, whether expressed publicly or recorded in some databases, is considered sensitive and protected.
  • Union Membership: Membership in labor unions or political organizations can also be a sensitive indicator of a person's beliefs and affiliations.

Comprehensive GDPR Compliance Checklist: Practical Implementations

Leveraging Vanta's compliance automation platform alongside the expertise of BD Emerson's consultants can significantly streamline the process of achieving and maintaining GDPR compliance. By integrating these resources with the comprehensive GDPR compliance guide, organizations can ensure continuous monitoring and enforcement of control measures. Here's how Vanta and BD Emerson can assist with each checklist item:

GDPR compliance checklist

Inventory of Data Processing Activities

  • Vanta's Role: Integrates your sub-processors into a single control plan for your privacy team to leverage to conduct data mapping activities and monitor control changes protecting your data. 
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Provides guidance on structuring data flow maps and identifying critical data processing activities that may require additional controls or oversight.

Appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

  • Vanta's Role: Offers dashboard features that allow the DPO to monitor compliance status, receive alerts for potential compliance issues, and track remediation efforts.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Offers DPO as a service, ensuring that you are equipped with the knowledge and tools to effectively use Vanta's platform for compliance management, as well as having a privacy leader with visibility into your tech stack and able to rapidly represent your compliance interests to customers and prospects.

GDPR Compliance Documentation

  • Vanta's Role: Facilitates the creation and maintenance of a digital repository for all GDPR-related documentation, making it easy to update records and demonstrate compliance during audits.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Assists in developing comprehensive documentation policies and procedures that align with GDPR requirements, leveraging Vanta's capabilities to streamline document  and data management.

Legal Basis for Data Processing

  • Vanta's Role: Provides templates and workflows to document the legal basis for each data processing activity, including consent management features to track and verify data subject consents.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Offers legal and regulatory insights to accurately determine and document the legal basis for data processing activities, ensuring alignment with GDPR mandates. Our privacy staff will help you document valid processing basis to comply with the GDPR.

Data Breach Response Plan

  • Vanta's Role: Enables quick detection and reporting of vulnerabilities, improper access, and anomalies through automated monitoring systems, helping organizations meet the GDPR's 72-hour notification requirement.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Works with organizations to develop and refine data breach response plans, conducting simulations and training sessions to prepare for potential data breach scenarios. BD Emerson also offers Incident Response services so that our Clients have the 

Data Collection Transparency

  • Vanta's Role: Assists in implementing clear and accessible privacy notices across all data collection points, integrating with websites and applications to ensure compliance.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Advice on best practices for crafting transparent personal data collection notices and consents, ensuring they meet GDPR's clarity and accessibility standards.

Consent Verification Mechanisms

  • Vanta's Role: Automates the consent verification process, providing mechanisms to track and store evidence of consent, including age verification for services directed at children.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Helps design and implement effective consent verification processes that comply with GDPR, leveraging Vanta's automation capabilities for efficiency and reliability.

Implementation of Double Opt-In Procedures

  • Vanta's Role: Supports double opt-in procedures for email marketing, automating subscription confirmations and maintaining an audit trail of consents.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Guides organizations on integrating double opt-in processes into their marketing strategies, ensuring these practices are effectively managed through Vanta's platform.

Privacy Policy Updates

  • Vanta's Role: Tracks changes in data processing activities and alerts organizations when privacy policy updates may be necessary, facilitating compliance management.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Assists in regularly reviewing and updating privacy policies, ensuring they accurately reflect current practices and comply with GDPR, while leveraging Vanta for streamlined policy management.

Third-Party Risk Assessments

  • Vanta's Role: Automates third-party risk assessments, monitoring vendors' compliance status and integrating data protection clauses into contracts through the platform.
  • BD Emerson's Expertise: Provides comprehensive risk assessment services, evaluating third-party vendors' policies and practices to ensure they meet GDPR standards, and advising on mitigating identified risks.

By combining Vanta's cutting-edge compliance automation technology with BD Emerson's deep regulatory knowledge and expertise, organizations can not only achieve GDPR compliance but also maintain a robust data protection and privacy posture that adapts to evolving regulations and threats. Together we help embed a respect for privacy and data protection into your product and services. This commitment to upholding data protection policies and standards does more than ensure compliance; it fosters a pervasive culture of data protection awareness and accountability throughout the organization.

When an organization embeds these principles into its core, it does more than protect data; it builds and reinforces trust with its data subjects. In today's digital age, where data breaches and privacy concerns frequently make headlines, earning and maintaining this trust is invaluable. It assures customers and partners that their personal data is treated with the utmost care and respect, thereby enhancing the organization's reputation for data privacy. This reputation, once established, becomes a significant asset, setting the organization apart in a crowded and competitive marketplace where consumers are increasingly privacy-conscious.

Navigating GDPR Compliance. How to Become GDPR Сompliant? 

Achieving and maintaining GDPR compliance is not a one-time effort but a dynamic, ongoing process that demands continuous attention. It requires organizations to not only make initial adjustments to policies and procedures but also to embrace a cultural shift towards prioritizing data privacy. This shift involves regular monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation of data protection and appropriate security measures to keep pace with evolving regulatory requirements, technological advancements, and changing consumer expectations.

By rigorously adhering to the comprehensive steps outlined in this GDPR compliance checklist, organizations can fulfill their legal obligations while also strengthening their commitment to the ethical handling of sensitive personal data. This commitment helps in cementing trust with customers, enhancing organizational credibility, and securing a competitive edge in the global digital economy. Ultimately, GDPR compliance is more than a regulatory requirement; it's a strategic investment in the organization's future, ensuring its sustainability and success in an increasingly data-driven world.

Expert GDPR Compliance Support

If you're at the outset of your GDPR compliance journey or looking to enhance your current data protection strategies, BD Emerson is here to assist. Our team, comprising data protection experts with an in-depth understanding of GDPR intricacies, is dedicated to providing tailored compliance solutions that address the unique needs of your organization. Whether you're seeking guidance on specific aspects of becoming GDPR compliant or require comprehensive support, we're equipped to help you navigate the complexities of data protection with confidence.

Don't let the challenges of GDPR compliance deter you. Reach out to us at for a consultation, and embark on a path towards robust and effective GDPR compliance. Together, we can ensure that your organization not only meets the regulatory requirements but also enhances its data protection posture, building a stronger foundation of trust with your customers and partners. Start your journey towards GDPR compliance with BD Emerson today, and take a proactive step towards securing your organization's future in the digital age.

Guide to GDPR Compliance: A Comprehensive Overview

About the author



Managing Director


Drew spearheads BD Emerson's Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security (GRC+Sec) division, where he channels his expertise into guiding clients through the labyrinth of Information Security, Risk Management, Regulatory Compliance, Data Governance, and Privacy. His stewardship is key in developing tailored programs that not only address the unique challenges faced by businesses but also foster a culture of security and compliance.


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