The GDPR has been with us for a few years, but most people still only have a vague knowledge of what this means. The truth is that international data protection law is highly specialised and technical. This means that GDPR training is critical.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation was approved in 2016 and enacted in 2018, replacing the 1995 Data Protection Directive. There are complex legal, political and historical reasons for this policy change, which are beyond the scope of this guide.

The key takeaway is that the GDPR was aimed at strengthening the protection of EU citizen data at home and abroad. Of course, this also puts a lot of new responsibilities on organisations which handle this data.

With that in mind, let’s explore some key lessons you can learn from GDPR training. First, let’s have a quick history lesson.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. The GDPR’s primary aim is to give individuals control over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

GDPR Training header image

What is GDPR?

The GDPR is a set of rules that govern how businesses can collect, store, and use personal data. The regulation applies to all organizations that process the personal data of individuals in the EU, regardless of the organization’s location.

Key principles of the GDPR

The GDPR is based on seven key principles:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimization
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality
  • Accountability

What are the benefits of GDPR compliance?

There are several benefits to complying with the GDPR, including:

  • Reduced risk of fines and penalties
  • Improved customer trust
  • Competitive advantage
  • Increased efficiency and productivity

How can I comply with the GDPR?

There are several steps that organizations can take to comply with the GDPR, including:

  • Appointing a data protection officer (DPO)
  • Conducting a data protection impact assessment (DPIA)
  • Implementing appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data
  • Training staff on GDPR compliance
  • Providing individuals with access to their data
  • Erasing personal data when it is no longer needed

Data Protection in the European Union

GDPR graphic
Data Protection is a fundamental right of all European Citizens. Image credit: European Commission

The EU has had a common approach to data protection across all of its member states since the mid-90s to eliminate all trade barriers within the single market.

Even pre-GDPR, these regulations managed and protected the use of personal information regarding how companies can use, obtain, store, transfer and delete it. This was primarily within the EU and was treated as a trade issue.

However, in 2009, the Lisbon Treaty gave data protection the status of a fundamental right of all EU citizens. This made it necessary to expand protections under EU law to more contexts, including protecting citizen’s data from non-EU organisations.

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The European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers of the European Union legislate the GDPR. It aims to prevent and control the breach of information and data security and reconstruct the data privacy approach practised by organisations in the EU.

Organisations that breach the GDPR are liable for massive fines issued by the national data protection authorities in the relevant member states. These are capped at whichever is higher out of €20 million, or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover.

To date, the largest fine which has been levied under the GDPR is €50 million, which was imposed on Google by the French data protection authorities:

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Over €150 million of GDPR fines have been handed out since 2018. Image credit: PRNewsWire

Of course, for most companies, this would be crippling. As such, fines are generally proportionate to the offending organisation and the exact nature of the breach.

Since the stakes are high, let’s examine why GDPR training is so important for organisations.

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Why Do You Need GDPR Training?

Any organisation needing “Get Data Protection Ready” should consider GDPR training.

Prompted by the EU GDPR, several courses are available, including data protection commissioners, government bodies and private companies.

These courses coax businesses to achieve goals and set plans requiring less personal data access. They are offered to all micro, small, medium or large organisations seeking to implement the regulation.

GDPR courses are suitable for all business areas that handle personal information and seek a better understanding of GDPR rules.

Accordingly, they were developed for organisations that seek to implement the GDPR procedures, understand what kind of data is considered GDPR, and understand what is expected of them concerning information security.

GDPR training is also important in the global context, especially when handling the personal information of European Union citizens. Some training courses even provide a substantial approach to global and EU data protection procedures.

This is going to become increasingly important in the coming years. The GDPR was the first international data protection law to assume jurisdiction based on the citizenship of the data subject rather than their location.

In simple terms, data processors must follow the GDPR if they handle the data of even one EU citizen, no matter where they are located. This has somewhat opened the floodgates, with other countries and international organisations taking a similar approach.

The trouble is that the requirements of these different international regimes can often differ. GDPR training is an excellent way to get to grips with key ideas in international data protection.

GDPR training courses are delivered in a classroom, live online, distance learning, or in-house. Here is the EU’s recommended GDPR training framework.

Some GDPR Fines:

GDPR Foundation Training Course

Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd.2023€1.2 billionFailing to provide sufficient transparency about how it collects and uses personal data.
Amazon Europe2021€746 millionFailing to obtain valid consent from users to process their personal data.
Google Ireland2019€60 millionFailing to provide users with clear and concise information about how their data is used.
H&M2020€35 millionFailing to implement appropriate security measures to protect personal data.
British Airways2020€22 millionA data breach that affected 400,000 customers.
Marriott International2020€20 millionA data breach that affected 500 million customers.
TikTok2023€12.7 millionFailing to provide adequate protection for children’s data.
Clearview AI2022€7.5 millionScraping and storing the facial recognition data of millions of people without their consent.
Österreichische Post AG2022€50 millionFailing to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data.
Vodafone Italia2020€12.25 millionFailing to provide individuals with access to their data.
WhatsApp Ireland2021€225 millionFailing to be transparent about how it shares data with its parent company, Facebook.
Deutsche Wohnen2019€14.5 millionFailing to provide users with clear and concise information about how their data is being used.
Criteo2023€40 millionFailing to obtain valid consent from users to track their online activity.
TIM2020€27.8 millionFailing to implement appropriate security measures to protect personal data.
A list of large company fines for GDPR

These fines underscore the importance of GDPR rules in modern data protection and privacy. They remind all organizations about the critical need for compliance with GDPR standards, illustrating that non-compliance can result in significant financial and reputational damages. As digital data grows in volume and significance, GDPR’s role in shaping responsible data management practices remains crucial.

GDPR Foundation syllabus screenshot
GDPR foundation courses cover the basic principles of data protection. EngageInLearning

This training course delivers a full introduction to the new regulation and a brief outline of the GDPR requirements. Staff responsibilities are also outlined to assist those in charge to apply the changes to their organisation.

This involves explaining the key principles of the GDPR in simple and easy-to-follow language, which is ideal for learners without any legal or technical knowledge.

GDPR Practitioner Training Course

GDPR training for practitioners syllabus
GDPR training for practitioners is also available. Image credit: EngageInLearning

Building on GDPR foundation training, practitioner courses equip you with the operational skills necessary to implement and qualify for GDPR compliance.

To attend the Practitioner training, participants must attend and pass the Foundation course. In particular, this training was designed for:

  1. Staff members of any department or business handling personal data and those who are seeking to understand their responsibilities like Human Resources, Data Security, Financial and Accounting, IT services, and Corporate governance,
  2. Individuals wishing to pursue a position in the data protection field,
  3. Managers seeking to understand the advance and wide-reaching requirements of the GDPR, or managers with a position that processes data security and want to further their understanding in regards to means of complying with the requirements.

The GDPR Minimal Compliance Training Requirements

These training programs meet the limited requirements of the regulation. Sometimes, they could be as simple as an online workshop for staff members handling personal information.

GDPR courses require their learners to affirm their commitment to complying and implementing data security procedures. Still, they don’t place any demands on processors and/or controllers, just DPOs (Data Protection Officers) attesting for their compliance in meeting the requirements.

However, this does not mean that the DPO in an organisation is personally liable for GDPR breaches. Rather, they are responsible for ensuring that the organisation complies with the law, but the organisation itself remains liable when something goes wrong.

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GDPR Complete Compliance Training Requirements

A total of 11 chapters and 99 articles make up the GDPR. These are accompanied by several hundred recitals, as well as a growing body of case law emanating from national authorities, courts, and the EU institutions and courts.

Here are the key topics covered within GDPR training.

1. Awareness

Awareness is the first step to complying with the GDPR. Compliance cannot be achieved without the awareness of the new laws within the regulation. Decision-makers must be aware of the areas and fields of business that the regulation will influence most.

Waiting until you have a breach on your hands to read up on the GDPR is frankly unforgivable stupidity. Large organisations with several streams of personal data centres need to be prepared and allocate budgets and personnel to serve the new GDPR reforms.

2. The Role of a Data Protection Officer

Appointing a DPO is mandatory for public authorities, large-scale data processing of sensitive data, and large-scale systematic data processing. The criteria for what is considered ‘large-scale’ or ‘systematic’ are not explicit in the GDPR but can be based on guidance from national authorities.

When appointing a DPO, there is no exemption for medium or even small organisations. The requirement for appointing a DPO is based on the scale of your data processing, not the size or value of your organisation.

DPOs report to the decision-makers and board members in any organisation due to their crucial roles. They manage all data protection procedures and train and advise their organisation and employees about their responsibility to comply with all data protection regulations.

Some organisations appoint an internal employee with data protection experience as their DPO. How? Well, they usually skill them up with a DPO training course. Others who don’t have such calibres seek professional DPOs.

Similarly, in many companies, there is a need for a DPO, but not to the point that it would require someone to work in this role full-time. This is another good reason to upskill an existing employee to be responsible for DPO functions.

3. Communicate the Use of Personal Data

According to the GDPR, any organisation handling EU citizens’ data must provide certain information on how their information will be used, stored and processed by the data handler. Without this, data subjects can’t give informed consent.

Related to this is the principle of purpose limitation. In brief, this means that data must be collected, stored and processed for specific purposes, which cannot be open-ended. If these change, data subjects must also be informed of new purposes in order to obtain consent.

For instance, when an organisation obtains personal information, it must communicate its identity and how it plans on using the data. They must also state their data possession duration and legal reasoning for data retention.

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4. Track, Detect, and Report Data Breaches

Under GDPR, organisations are required to communicate and report data breaches to their customers and their national Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). To accomplish that, organisations will need to formulate adequate procedures to detect, report, and finally investigate any data breaches.

Any failure to report such breaches will result in heavy fines that could reach up to four per cent of their annual global revenue or €22 million, whichever is greater. This is in addition to a fine imposed due to the breach itself.

Hence, DPOs must report to board members and stakeholders in case of any data breach – even if by accident – that might result in reputation damage, confidentiality loss, or financial loss.

Moreover, if inaccurate personal information is shared, organisations must report that inaccuracy. In case of suspecting inaccurate data, reporting it is done by documenting the obtained personal data, how it was obtained, and who it was shared with.

5. Individual Rights

In the presence of GDPR, organisations must refrain from both automated decision-making and profiling. Also, their data protection procedures must demonstrate the individuals’ new rights.

Listed below are some of the rights individuals are entitled to:

  • Demand data corrections and deletions if necessary,
  • Moving personal data from one IT department to another,
  • Request access to their data, free of charge, promptly, and in a comprehensible form under what is called “Subject Access Requests.” Such requests must be provided within a month, and in case of a request refusal, organisations must notify the individuals and explain why. Still, individuals are entitled to file a complaint to authorities against any request refusal.

Organisations should generally consider designing systems that enable individuals to access their data in an easy and readable manner.

6. Consent

Under GDPR, traditional means of consent will be going out the window and will be replaced with solid, affirmative forms of consent. GDPR requires that consent be explicit and separate from any other condition or term when signing for the organisation.

In addition, GDPR strictly and clearly regards the pre-ticking of opt-in boxes as insufficient.

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7. Data Protection for Minors

In the process of data protection reform, GDPR regulates laws that protect minors’ personal data. Organisations could comply by either developing programs to check individuals’ age or acquiring the needed consent from guardians before processing any personal data.

GDPR has promulgated 16 years to be the appropriate age for minors to give their own consent to information processing.

To conclude, there are a number of GDPR training courses that ensure stronger compliance, provide systems that manage and control customer data, and enable adequate access of personal data.

For this reason, organisations must allocate the right budgets to conduct training courses that are most applicable to their needs. A GDPR training should result in effective data security reforms and affect the way businesses track, detect and report data breaches.

The training course could be an ongoing activity for staff either through quarterly training or a regular awareness campaign, rather than just a one-time training course. Inadequate training comes at a very low cost, but in case of an error could result in enormous fines.

For more information, check the EU GDPR information portal.

The Importance of GDPR Training

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced stringent data protection requirements for organizations processing EU citizens’ personal data. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual revenue, highlighting the critical need for comprehensive GDPR training.

According to recent research by [Forrester], over 60% of data privacy professionals say their organizations still have work to do on GDPR readiness, with staff training highlighted as one key area for improvement. Proper training ensures personnel understand their obligations and responsibilities when handling personal data. It also helps mitigate compliance risks.

Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

The first step in implementing an effective GDPR training program is conducting a training needs analysis. This involves:

  • Identifying roles that involve personal data processing and, therefore, require GDPR training. This includes HR, marketing, IT/security, customer service, and other customer/employee-facing roles.
  • Assessing current staff knowledge levels through surveys, quizzes or interviews to gauge gaps.
  • Mapping out required training by role, using GDPR job matrices.
  • Prioritizing training needs based on impact and likelihood of non-compliance. Frontline staff handling large volumes of customer data typically take precedence.

GDPR Training Methods

GDPR training programs should utilize multiple methods to deliver engaging, relevant and effective training to all personnel. Methods include:

  • eLearning Modules: Scalable online training provides flexibility. Refreshers can ensure knowledge remains current.
  • In-Person Workshops: Classroom sessions allow for Q&A, activities and peer learning.
  • Team Meetings: Integrating short GDPR training segments into team meetings reinforces continual learning.
  • Posters/Visual Aids: Displays with key messages, FAQs or checklists serve as ongoing reminders.
  • Regular Refreshers: Annual or bi-annual refreshers update staff on evolving guidance.

GDPR Training Topics

GDPR training should cover:

  • GDPR Fundamentals – Key principles, data subject rights, legal bases for processing data, consent requirements
  • Data Protection Impact Assessments – When required, how to conduct
  • Data Minimization – Collecting and retaining only necessary data
  • Privacy by Design – Implementing data protection from the start
  • Breach Notification – Detecting, reporting and investigating breaches
  • Data Transfers – Rules for transferring data outside the EEA
  • Subject Access Requests – Handling requests for data access
  • Legal Liabilities – Personal accountability and penalties

Making Training Effective

GDPR training should focus on building understanding, not just completing modules. Tips include:

  • Relate concepts to day-to-day handling of personal data
  • Use quizzes, group discussions and activities to engage learners
  • Welcome discussions and feedback to clear up misconceptions
  • Highlight enforcement examples to underscore the importance.
  • Audit training comprehension through assessments
  • Offer incentives for completing training (gift cards, days off, etc.)

Ongoing training is essential as guidance evolves and staff come and go. Utilizing multiple methods ensures all personnel remain cognizant of GDPR requirements.

Benefits of GDPR training for businesses

GDPR training can help businesses to:

  • Reduce the risk of data breaches
  • Improve customer trust
  • Avoid costly fines
  • Demonstrate compliance with the GDPR
  • Gain a competitive advantage

How to implement GDPR training in your organization

To implement GDPR training in your organization, you can follow these steps:

  1. Choose a training provider. Make sure to choose a provider that has experience delivering GDPR training and that offers a curriculum that covers all of the relevant topics.
  2. Develop a training plan. Determine who will receive training, what topics will be covered, and how the training will be delivered.
  3. Deliver the training. You can deliver the training in-house, online, or through a combination of both methods.
  4. Measure the effectiveness of the training. Use surveys or quizzes to assess what employees have learned from the training.

GDPR Training FAQ

  • Who should take GDPR training?

All employees who handle personal data should take GDPR training. This includes employees in all departments, such as marketing, sales, customer service, and IT.

  • What topics are covered in GDPR training?

GDPR training typically covers topics such as:

* The key principles of the GDPR
* The rights of data subjects
* The requirements for data processors
* How to handle personal data securely
* How to respond to data breaches
  • How do you choose the right GDPR training provider?

When choosing a GDPR training provider, consider the following factors:

* The provider's experience delivering GDPR training
* The provider's curriculum
* The provider's delivery methods
* The provider's pricing

Resources for further learning

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR):
  • ICO guidance on the GDPR:
  • GDPR training courses:
  • Articles and books on GDPR:

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