Data Protection Officer dilemmas: Balancing privacy and profitability in the age of big data

According to the European Commission the role of a DPO is

The DPO (Data Protection Officer) assists the controller or the processor in all issues relating to the protection of personal data. In particular, the DPO must:

  • inform and advise the controller or processor, as well as their employees, of their obligations under data protection law;
  • monitor compliance of the organisation with all legislation in relation to data protection, including in audits, awareness-raising activities as well as training of staff involved in processing operations;
  • provide advice where a DPIA has been carried out and monitor its performance;
  • act as a contact point for requests from individuals regarding the processing of their personal data and the exercise of their rights;
  • cooperate with DPAs (Data Processing Agreement) and act as a contact point for DPAs on issues relating to processing;
  • The organisation must involve the DPO in a timely manner. The DPO must not receive any instructions from the controller or processor for the exercise of their tasks. The DPO reports directly to the highest level of management of the organisation.


Broadly speaking the role of a Data Protection Officer (DPO) is to ensure that an organization complies with data protection laws and regulations while safeguarding individuals’ privacy rights. In the age of big data, DPOs (Data protection officers) face significant challenges in balancing privacy and profitability. Here are some common dilemmas they might encounter:

Consent vs. Data Collection

One of the core principles of data protection is obtaining individuals’ consent for data collection. However, organizations may be tempted to collect as much data as possible, often without explicit consent. DPOs should advocate for obtaining informed consent while helping the organization understand the importance of respecting privacy rights.

Data Minimization vs. Business Objectives

Data minimization is a fundamental principle of privacy. Only necessary data should be collected and retained. However, organizations may argue that keeping vast amounts of data enables better analysis and drives profitability. DPOs need to strike a balance by encouraging data minimization practices that align with business goals without compromising privacy.

Purpose Limitation vs. Data Analytics

Data protection laws often require organizations to specify the purposes for which data is collected. However, big data analytics often involve uncovering insights from diverse data sources, which may go beyond the originally defined purposes. DPOs must ensure that data usage still is within the boundaries of the specified purposes, while also considering potential benefits from data analytics.

Anonymization vs. Data Utilization

Anonymizing data is a widespread practice to protect privacy. However, fully anonymizing data may limit its usability for various purposes, including data analysis and monetization. DPOs must assess the risks and benefits of different anonymization techniques to strike a balance between privacy protection and data utilization.

Security vs. Data Access

Organizations must implement proper security measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access and breaches. However, stringent security controls might hinder data access and usability for legitimate purposes within the organization. DPOs play a crucial role in ensuring that security measures are in place while enabling authorized individuals to access data as needed.

Transparency vs. Trade Secrets

Privacy regulations often require organizations to be transparent about their data practices. However, organizations may have proprietary algorithms, business models, or trade secrets that they want to keep confidential. DPOs must guide organizations in finding the right balance between transparency and protecting valuable intellectual property.

To address these dilemmas effectively, DPOs should actively engage with stakeholders, including senior management, legal teams, and data analysts, to promote a privacy-centric culture while considering the organization’s profitability goals. They should stay updated on evolving privacy laws, industry best practices, and technological advancements to navigate the challenges posed by big data and ensure that privacy and profitability can coexist harmoniously.

How can ComplyKEY be of benefit to a Data Protection Officer?

MailMeter creates an encrypted copy of every email your organization receives. When an organization is the victim of a cyber-attack, it can still access all emails. Some of the added benefits of this award-winning email management and compliance platform are:

  • the ability to find every single email in your organization
  • conduct eDiscovery,
  • freedom of information, and DSAR (Data Subject Access Request) searches directly from your desktop or online

Our email archiving and retention management solution gives you the ability to narrow the scope of your search across email using clearly defined criteria

SISCIN is a cloud solution hosted in Azure that provides file analysis, management, and control. The online dashboard of single or multi-locations presents full drill-down reporting of your entire file server data. Insight creates knowledge that creates control, with policy-based actions for clean-up, deduplication, content indexing, and secure stub archiving directly to the public cloud.

The benefits to a Data Protection Officer of using DiscoveryControl include workflow management and audit trail. DiscoveryControl is a paperless solution that allows organizations to easily manage any data request including FOI (Freedom of Information), FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), DSAR, and Data Breaches. It also offers a Record of Processing Activities

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