Are You Familiar with Microsoft 365 Compliance?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect in May 2018 was designed to strengthen and standardize data protection across the EU and UK. It accords users control over which of their personal data companies can collect and how they can use it.

Microsoft 365 aims to simplify GDPR compliance for its clients with time-saving tools and invaluable reference resources. However, navigating the compliance environment is a big challenge for an organization of any size, type, or industry.

Failing to comply with the regulations could cost an organization as much as €20 million in fines or 4% of your company’s total turnover. Reliable Networks recommends that organizations consult an expert to ensure they comply with the regulations.

If you are unfamiliar with GDPR and what it takes to comply with it when using Microsoft 365, here are some of the most important points you should note.

Understand the Rights of Your Clients

Users and clients have had more rights over their data since the GDPR replaced the 1998 Data Protection Act. For instance, the clients have a right to be informed when their data is collected, processed, or transmitted. They also have a right to erase any of their data, modify it, or restrict access.

The first step in complying with GDPR when using Office 365 is to understand the client rights specific to your industry or the nature of data you collect. The European Commission maintains a client’s rights page that you should go over every now and then. Note that these rights change from time to time, and staying informed is an ongoing process.

Keep Track of User Data-Related Requests and Events

Every EU citizen has a right to access, modify, or erase their personal data collected by an organization. From an IT perspective, your company will need to log and track all requests made by the user using a logging system. There are many logging systems available in the market that your organization can use.

Office 365 comes with a Unified Audit Logging system that can be invaluable in tracking all user requests and events from the GDPR perspective. This tool allows the system administrator to access and act on the request and review user activities and events. Logging is critical to enforcing the data regulations outlined in the GDPR.

Clarify What Data is Collected and Transmitted

The term ‘Personal Data’ in the GDPR refers to all kinds of information on an identifiable or an identified person. It may include details such as their legal name, username, email addresses, or other online identifiers such as IP address. It also covers facts relating to a person’s physical, social, economic, or psychological identity.

Your company must outline the details of the personal data it collects and transmits. Aside from clarifying which data they collect and store, you must also clarify where and how the data is stored, who accesses or processes it, and what medium is used to transmit it.

Keep Proper Access Controls for User Files

In a digital environment where users and organizations share files, GDPR compliance can be problematic unless a proper file access control system is in place. Sharing and sending files is an essential part of collaboration and project management. If a project involves several people or organizations, a cloud-based file sharing solution would most likely be the best way to share files.

Your company must store Microsoft 365 files within specific physical boundaries to comply with the GDPR. This means, for instance, that a UK company should store files with personal data in servers located in the UK or within the EU. A robust data control solution should offer explicit data authorization and allow users to access and manipulate data with their personal information with ease.

Encryption User Data for Improved Security

While GDPR does not explicitly require companies to encrypt user data, it is the most effective way to secure it before storage. Microsoft 365 E3 subscription and higher subscription levels offer a baseline encryption level that uses BitLocker for companies to encrypt files before storage or transmission easily.

Most companies prefer to use third-party enterprise-level encryption tools that offer greater functionality and additional protection for encrypted data. As a rule of thumb, your company should enforce data security protocols covering encryption and data confidentiality and integrity checks at every stage of processing, storage, or transmission.

Review Your Company Consent Request Policy and Language

GDPR covers a lot more than the legal requirements of personal data management, such as how users should be requested to consent to collecting and processing their data. Companies are required to use simple language that users can understand when asking for consent. They must also be clear and as concise as possible about the technical aspects of the data collection, storing, and processing.

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make that could get them in trouble with the GDPR is making assumptions. Your company must never assume a client has given consent; you must explicitly get it. Silence is not consent. Issues regarding client consent and how it is requested and given could lead to compliance issues and even hefty fines.

Preparing for and Responding to a Data Breach

As hacking and data theft cases skyrocket worldwide, your company must prepare for such an eventuality. Article 4 of the GDPR describes a data breach as an incident that leads to unauthorized disclosure, modification, deletion, or loss of personal data. The GDPR makes your company responsible for safeguarding the personal data it collects.

Should client personal data leak or get stolen, it pays to have a proper breach response plan in place to detect and respond to data breach incidents quickly and pragmatically. The breach response plan must include reporting all breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after your company becomes aware of the breach.


Many companies already have a system in place to help them with performing risk and compliance checks to comply with the DGPR. Microsoft 365 comes with multiple tools that companies can use to ensure GDPR accountability. However, considering the complexity of data laws and the steep GDPR requirements, it is often necessary for companies to consult professional IT services companies to help them with compliance. Visit Reliable Networks today to learn more about GDPR compliance specific to your company.

Gregory Olczyk

Gregory Olczyk