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Leveraging the Power of Knowledge Graphs for GDPR Compliance


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Organizations worldwide are grappling with the requirements of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and it’s no secret that finding ways to remain compliant has become one of the most visible challenges, and a key issue that has dominated the conversation. What’s more pertinent; however, is the root of the problem: outdated systems which organizations use to track and understand where their data lives. This has grown more difficult day-by-day, as the amount of data collected by organizations grows exponentially. GDPR is a good forcing function to spur them to dig into this problem before it gets worse.

In short, GDPR requires all organizations with information about European residents (so, any global company) to comply with strict rules about how that personal data is stored, secured, used, moved and erased from their systems. Organizations who don’t comply can receive a maximum fine of 4% of a company’s global revenue, or 20 million euros ($24,475,000), whichever is larger.

Of all the implications for organizations, one of the biggest ones is steering clear of the hefty fine – and according to a recent survey conducted by IDC, only 29% of European small businesses and 41% of midsize businesses have taken steps to prepare for GDPR. Beyond compliance, how can organizations modernize their infrastructure to institute better data practices moving forward? With the impending changes to come, here’s why companies should consider leveraging knowledge graphs as part of their organizational update.

What is a knowledge graph?

Knowledge graphs are a means of storing and using data, which allows people and machines to better tap into the connections in their datasets. By contrast, the typical NoSQL pattern is "store and retrieve" which doesn’t allow organizations to draw connections between their data without running complicated queries. Because of their fundamental structure, knowledge graphs are different. They can capture facts related to people, processes, applications, data and things, and connect those facts with the relationships among them. Knowledge graphs also capture evidence that can be used to attribute the strengths of these relationships, which allows companies to derive context from data. This is an extremely pertinent capability not only for complying with the GDPR, but for all modern organizations today to derive value from their datasets.

Why is it so important to GDPR?

Most NoSQL databases store sets of disconnected aggregates. This makes it difficult to use them for connecting data points. With knowledge graphs, every time you enter data you enrich the entire data ecosystem, because it’s connected to everything else. The more data, the more context. And this contextual value grows exponentially like Metcalfe’s law of the network, because networks are graphs. Attempting to track connections with NoSQL isn’t feasible as the data model is too restrictive.

Knowledge graphs draw connections between data quickly

Personal data usually follows an unpredictable road through an organization’s infrastructure, but being able to draw connections between data quickly is essential. GDPR will require organizations to report a data breach within 72 hours, so organizations will need to quickly pull information from their systems and accurately report when and how the breach occurred. When the primary focus is on remediating the damage, finding out what the breach is, who has been affected, how widespread it is and how it occurred all within 72 hours will not be easy.

Tracing the lineage of personal data from its acquisition to its deletion will enhance customers’ privacy and sense of security. Organizations will also be able to improve transparency with regulators, thanks to the ability to visualize proof of personal data flows. Without implementing a knowledge graph architecture  technology, this level of security is not possible.

Knowledge graphs enable interdepartmental coordination

For all companies who are adapting to GDPR guidelines, becoming compliant is an effort that crosses departments and departmentalized budgets. Given that every engagement and action that a user has logged over time lies within personal data that is set to be affected by GDPR, this requires a gargantuan effort across entire organizations.

Rather than parsing out the GDPR requirements for each department and then relying on inefficient, manual data pulls of information across countless applications, knowledge graphs allow organizations to quickly make connections from anywhere, which saves time and money. Now is the time to coordinate other cross-department and cross-budget initiatives to leverage company data. GDPR is merely a forcing function that has caused this issue to rise to the top.

Knowledge graphs will allow you to go beyond compliance

GDPR is a good impetus for organizations to not only think about compliance, but also think beyond it. With an increased focus on data analysis and security, data has rarely been more top of mind among business executives across all industries. There’s a compelling “why now” to modernize and it’s very visible from the executive level.

Connecting data with knowledge graphs will not only make organizations more compliant, but it will allow companies to better understand their customers and make more informed decisions, and even enable companies to better maximize the value of the information they have.


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