GDPR: how can I protect my data correctly?

When you process personal data you have the ethical and legal obligation to ensure that personal data are sufficiently protected.

The basic level of security must always be in accordance with the information security policy of Ghent University. However, additional measures may be necessary specifically for each processing. The choice of additional security is based on an assessment of the risks of the processing. Processing involving more risks will have to be accompanied by a more extensive set of safety measures.

In the area of data protection, anonymisation, pseudonymisation and encryption are put forward by the GDPR and sometimes even required as guarantees.

Anonymisation

When you collect personal data and then anonymise them, this processing constitutes anonymisation under the GDPR. Anonymisation means that the data subject (the individual to whom the data relates) can no longer be identified and it is not possible to re-identify the data subject. Please note that the natural person may not easily be re-identified if someone, for example, were to link this dataset with another dataset.

Pseudonymisation

If anonymisation is not possible (or desirable), it is advisable to separate the personal data as quickly as possible from the research data (pseudonymisation). The key file that contains the link between the research data and the personal data must be kept in a separate and safe place, and should preferably be encrypted. For daily use, the pseudonymised data set is preferably used instead of the non-pseudonymised data set. Access to raw personal data is highly restricted.

Encryption

The use of encryption for storage or data transfer is also strongly recommended by the GDPR. You can choose to encrypt one or more files or to encrypt the entire system disk of your laptop or computer. For an overview of the different encryption options, be sure to check out the encryption manual for researchers.

Other measures

In addition to anonymisation, pseudonymisation and encryption, there are a host of other organisational and technical security measures to mitigate the risks involved:

  • storage of data files or documents on the University network drives or centrally offered storage options
  • use of secure VPN for wireless devices
  • multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect accounts
  • clean desk policy (make sure computers automatically lock after a certain period of inactivity)
  • key policy of offices
  • use of Windows screen saver L key to block screens
  • use of secure systems for the transfer of data (e.g. Belnet FileSender)
  • use of secure procedures for destroying data
  • (periodic) compliance training on data protection and information security for fellow researchers and partners
  • use of hashing
  • use of randomisation
  • possibility for research participants to quit the research any time
  • preventing personal data to leave the EEA
  • not using research results to take decisions which directly affect the individuals
  • keeping retention periods shorts
  • reducing the risk of stigmatisation by working with a large population; ‘noise’ will be added to reduce stigmatisation
  • applying data minimisation before, during and after the research; constantly re-evaluating the necessity of the personal data for the research purposes
  • taking extra safeguards concerning the mailing box: reflection period of a few seconds to cancel the sending of a an e-mail, extra confirmation when mailing to multiple persons, …
  • use of actual, secure and regularly controlled back-up procedure
  • systematic (anti malware) software updates

For more information and tips on how to handle your data safely, see the page about datasecurity.

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Last modified Sept. 13, 2021, 9:21 a.m.