What is Privacy by Design and its 7 Foundational Principles?

Data & AI StrategyData ArchitectureData Science

Security remains an issue with advanced technologies. Attempts for broader user protection have led to the invention of new approaches like PbD. Privacy by Design focuses on privacy during the development of IT systems, network infrastructure, product development, internal projects, and even company policies.

The whole idea was initially verbalized by Dr. Ann Cavoukian. Concerned by the prevalent need for a regulatory framework that prioritized privacy, Ann, a former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, invented the concept of Privacy by Design. Since 1995, when it was formalized and to the present day, the concept has become widespread.

It is essential for departments handling personal sensitive data, to have privacy design applied in their daily working processes. Addressing privacy-related issues during the early phases of a project means avoiding issues appearing in the future and impacting a large number of users.

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) adopted Privacy by Design in its regulations in 2010, obliging the data controllers to implement Privacy by Design in their products and infrastructure. Implementing Privacy by Design correctly, means respecting the seven Privacy by Design principles discussed below.


1. Proactive and Preventative Approach, not Remedial

When we talk about PbD privacy regulations, the goal is to build structures that prevent breaches and invasive events from happening. Identification and anticipation are two essential strategies that emphasize taking action before any invasive event occurs.

This is a proactive rather than reactive approach to data privacy, as it evaluates data exposure and possible threats continuously in order to prevent them. Privacy by Design is an approach that does not provide remedies for invasive events after happening. It focuses on prevention and continuous monitoring for poor privacy design points that should be enhanced.

2. Lead with Privacy as the Default Setting

Individuals entering their data on a system should receive instant protection of their details without having to take any further action by themselves. Privacy should be a default rule that is followed without a second thought. To assist in achieving maximum protection, this approach suggests the limitation of data stored per individual, and stating its collection purpose beforehand.

Disclosure, linking, or retention of data provided by users should be limited as much as possible. Even if the individual has consented to allow the disclosure of their data in specific cases, limitation of such disclosure means stronger prevention measures.

3. Embedding Privacy into the Design Process

Privacy is never additional when it comes to implementation. It should be treated as an integral element that develops with the business practice, operations, information architectures, and IT systems. However, this should be done without affecting the design’s full functionality.

Nevertheless, you should not set unchangeable standards or frameworks. The best practice is to perform audits and collect external reviews for privacy improvements but create space for upgrades and adjustments initially. Regardless of the heavy reliance on technology on a daily basis, these practices lower the impact of potential breaches in technological systems.

4. Retain Full Functionality (positive-sum, not zero-sum)

Having to choose between privacy and security should not be a discussion when you implement this approach. Privacy by Design states that there should be no compromise of privacy to attain better security and vice-versa.

A zero-sum result or impairing functionality and rejecting legitimate interests is not acceptable in Privacy by Design. Systems should retain full functionality, and even non-privacy-related regulations should be balanced in a positive-sum manner.

5. Ensure End-to-end Security Throughout Data Lifecycle

Data reaches a point in its lifecycle where it needs to be permanently destroyed, and this is as important as the secured retention of data until that phase. Privacy by Design practices should be applied from the first extraction of data, accompanying it until the final process.

The data controllers should leave no gaps in security or accountability. Users should be granted full access throughout the data lifecycle, to access, delete and control the actions affecting their data. Integrity and confidentiality should be maintained with security in mind.

6. Maintain Visibility and Transparency

Privacy by Design emphasizes transparency as one of its features. Partners or stakeholders should be reassured that the practices being followed are compliant with the main objectives and agreed stipulations, and can be verified independently by them.

Providers and users should receive equal rights to verify and check with transparency the processes and operations they are part of. FIP (Fair Information Practices) rules which focus on openness, compliance, accountability, and transparency must receive proper attention.

7. Respecting User Privacy

Most practices on which you base the privacy protection designs should not be done independently without the involvement of the users. These implementations should be presented to users through user-friendly approaches and clear notices.

Respecting users’ privacy remains one of Privacy by Design’s main components. It means that users are notified of the practices their data is subjected to, as well as the option to reject or accept them. Users should be aware of breaches happening and of the available options to file complaints if needed.

Final Thoughts

Privacy by Design holds important for organizations that want to provide business partners as well as data regulators with assurance regarding an impeccable and safe user experience. It is important that the Privacy by Design checklist of seven principles is followed from the start of a project, testing phase, and until the collected data remains no longer useful.

Prediction and prevention are the key elements of sailing safely through the vast ocean of digital information. We believe that keeping these principles in mind is important when implementing Privacy by Design. Using Machine Learning tools and advanced analytics, Blue Orange Digital reduces operational costs, while lowering the risks and keeping privacy at an optimal state. Discover how.