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We sat down with SIGNiX Executive Vice President, Pem Guerry to talk about navigating compliance requirements in the digital age.  Pem possesses a wide range of financial, marketing, and technology-management experiences in both the private and public sectors.  He has contributed to the development and success of SIGNiX over the past two decades. 

In this blog, Pem discusses data privacy regulations, such as the GDPR and CCPA, and how they pose major challenges for businesses in terms of understanding and complying with the laws.  He also dives into how leveraging tools like digital signatures can help in providing legal evidence, comprehensive audit trails, and reducing the risk of breaches, ultimately aiding businesses in maintaining compliance and minimizing risks. 

Can you briefly explain some of the major data privacy regulations that businesses need to comply with in the digital landscape?

Pem Guerry:

Data privacy regulations really began in the E.U. or European Union in 2016, with the general data protection regulation or GDPR had a very broad impact and the impact went beyond the EU it impacted companies in much of the world that was followed by the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018 is when it was passed in the US.

And then that was followed by another California Act more recently, that was more aligned with the GDPR and added additional protections beyond what the original C CPA Act of 2018 had. At this point, there are about 24 states with privacy acts that have either been passed or are in process, and also a federal privacy bill that has been sponsored, but it doesn't stop with that.

You've got a variety of other acts or regulations that impact privacy as well. The Graham Leach Bliley Act was very important to privacy IP A which was passed back in 1996 well-known act that protects personal health information is part of what it accomplishes the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA regulates educational institutions. And then you've got online identity proofing biometrics are beginning to be regulated and you've got other data in various regulated industries, financial information that are impacted as well. And then your own privacy policies that most companies have on their website and contractual agreements that call for confidentiality and data protection. So the environment relative to privacy is extremely broad at this point.


What are some key challenges businesses face when it comes to complying with evolving data protection regulations such as GDPR and CCPA?


It is a great challenge to be aware, understand and comply with so many inconsistent laws and regulations. Each one has its own courts or special requirements and then to be able to monitor when you need to meet a particular requirement or threshold and then to put in place the infrastructure, the systems, and the training to respond in a timely manner to the consumer requests relative to data that can be made under many of these privacy acts.


How do these regulations impact businesses that rely on digital signatures for their document processes?


First, it adds significant costs. You've got operational costs, legal compliance, software applications, and the infrastructure to respond in a timely manner to requests by consumers and others as well. And then also outside attorneys and consultants that often have to be used. And then you've got potential liabilities and general uncertainty because of the complexity of some of these laws.


Can you provide examples of specific compliance requirements that businesses must meet when using digital tools like digital signatures?


In addition to being inconsistent, the laws are very broad and complex. They define what sensitive personal information or private information is differently in different industries but, and, and they regulate the selling of data and limit other uses of that data. The data must be necessary and expected to use in a certain way or it requires individuals to explicitly opt-in, to use their data in certain ways.

You've got to process requests to delete or correct data or to allow someone to opt out of having their data used in a certain way. You have to have contracts with your service providers on how they're going to protect the data. You've got to look back period of that can be 12 months or greater and it also can extend rights beyond consumers to also include employees, candidates for employment, and business contacts.


What are the potential consequences for businesses that fail to comply with data protection regulations in relation to their use of digital tools?


The consequences can be severe, the financial penalties. Just looking at the financial penalties. There are states where the penalty can be as high as $20,000 per violation and you could build up many violations if you're not in compliance. And some states allow for a private right of action in addition to the penalties in states that have a consumer protection agency or some data privacy agency or some other group that is enforcing penalties for non-compliance.


What strategies or best practices can businesses adopt to ensure compliance while leveraging tools like digital signatures?


Well, it's interesting you use the word digital signature because that is a very specific type of online signature that is different than the basic E signatures and does indeed help in a significant way relative to privacy, digital signatures embed the necessary legal evidence into the document as well as providing a comprehensive audit trail instead of a simple certificate of completion. And those combined provide all of the necessary legal evidence that could be

required in court and allows the vendor, the signature vendor to delete their copies and simply limit the risk of a breach or lower the risk of a risk factor of someone's digital footprint. Privacy software is available and more and more cases, specialized consultants, and attorneys certainly can help. And then some organizations will either hire part-time or full-time, data privacy officer or a chief data officer.


Are there any specific security measures or certifications that businesses should consider when implementing tools for document management and digital signatures?


Yes. so two is a certification for security that is important and there are others as well. Relative simply to the security of systems or platforms. risk and cyber security assessments, data inventories, and assessments of the risk associated with that data. All of those are specific security measures that can be helpful.


How can businesses stay up to date with the latest changes and updates and data protection regulations to ensure ongoing compliance?


A simple way is to monitor legal research databases that have alerts relevant to your business or industry or use case you can join or, or ask for help from associations involved with consumer protections or look at their available content, monitor state and federal agencies and laws or upcoming bills. Consult with privacy consultants or specialized attorneys attend webinars by law firms or use other resources that they have provided.


Can businesses succeed in navigating compliance challenges while leveraging digital signatures?


We certainly believe so. We have clients who have significantly reduced their risks by eliminating unnecessary copies of confidential documents and who also remain compliant and up-to-date with regulations and they maintain transparency. It's very important to maintain transparency with your consumers about what your privacy activities are and to be efficient in how you implement your compliant activities. Also by doing so, they are limiting their potential liability risks and costs. 


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