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Wait! Don't scroll past this article. You may think that, as an accountant, data protection isn't something you need to concern yourself with. But it is and here's a number of reasons why…

Reason #1 The accounting function manages lots of personal data every day

You may see a lot of what you work with as simply 'data' but a lot of that data can actually be associated with an identifiable individual. That individual could be an employee, a client, a customer or a supplier - or they may have another association with your organisation. Regardless of what relationship that individual has with the business, they are still a person and have rights around the processing and storage of their personal data.

Reason #2 Financial data is attractive to cyber criminals

It is a sad but true fact that, in this increasingly online world, cyber crime is big business. Let's face it, financial data is attractive to criminals - either so they can fraudulently use it for financial gain or to hold the organisation they stole it from to ransom.

Ransomware attacks grew by 150% in 2020* and have now become an existential business threat globally. Many security experts are predicting that 2022 will continue to see ransomware attacks grow, with the chances of one of the big tech companies like Google falling foul of such an instance themselves.

Experiencing any form of data breach or cyber crime is expensive for an organisation and can have a lasting negative effect on the organisation's reputation.

Reason #3 Today's role of the accountant exists outside 'just numbers'

Accountants are increasingly being seen as advisors across a number of company-wide issues, not just those with immediate financial impact. This is where the concept of a finance business partner comes in.

Finance business partners work alongside different business departments, providing financial information, tools, analysis and insight to executives, challenging their thinking, helping them make more informed decisions and driving business strategy.

Their role is to provide 'real time' support and analysis, to be trusted advisors and to add value that will assist in decision making. Having an awareness and understanding about data protection is clearly part of the remit for a finance business partner.

Reason #4 The people you deal with care about how their data is used

It started with the introduction of the EU GDPR in 2018 and has continued to grow ever since. Ordinary people are now very savvy about their personal data, the rights they have around it and the fact that it belongs to them, not the organisation holding it.

In 2020, internet searches for the term "online privacy" grew globally by more than 50% compared to the previous year**. We are living in the age of data and digital privacy.

Businesses around the world are being asked more questions about what data they are collecting, how it is being used and what security is being employed to protect data and we need to be able to answer those questions with confidence.

If we can't, people simply won't share their data with us any more, stemming business functionality, reducing business growth and damaging an organisation's reputation.

It’s a global thing

Supporting the rise of the privacy age is a growing myriad of global data protection regulations. It started with the EU GDPR but it didn't stop there. Now we have the UK GDPR, China's Personal Information Protection Law, the California Consumer Privacy Act and the Personal Data Protection Act in Thailand, to name but a few.

And we need to be complying with all the regulations associated with where individuals whose data we manage are based. Yes, it's not about where our organisation is located, it is about where the individuals are located.

Now you've got this far through the article, how confident are you that you are up to speed with data protection regulation and practices?

Don’t worry, there’s a new accountingcpd course that will take you through the main principles of data protection, global regulations that may affect you, practical steps you can take to ensure the accounting function is on top of it all and more. Go to the course to find out more »

Becky Reid is an author for accountingcpd. To see her courses, click here.

*Source: IB-Group

**Source: Google Trends data 2020

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