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Privacy Impact Assessment: What It Is and How to Conduct One

Published March 15, 2023 / Updated November 22, 2023

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With the proliferation of data protection regulations globally over the last decade, organizations have been under unprecedented scrutiny regarding their resolve to ensure their users' data is appropriately protected. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to determine what protection mechanisms and other measures they have in place before collecting and processing the consumers’ personal data.

A Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) is one such measure that requires an organization to conduct a complete, detailed, and comprehensive assessment of its data protection mechanisms to gain vital insights necessary to identify relevant risks to the users' data and the appropriate measures to be taken to counter such risks. While the PIA has now become a consistent requirement under most data protection regulations globally, there have been requirements in place that have obligated organizations to conduct similar assessments in the past.

The Technology Assessment (TA), created by the United States Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment, is considered the first of such kinds of assessments which determined the long and short-term repercussions of new technologies upon society. The methods used in carrying out TA are often considered the precursor to the modern PIA.

The E-Government Act of 2002, Section 208, requires all the federal government agencies of the United States (US) to conduct PIAs for all electronic information systems and collections. Similarly, Article 35 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also mandates both private and public covered entities to carry out data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) before initiating projects and products which involve the processing of personal data, if such processing is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons.

Read on to learn more about what role a PIA plays in an organization's ability to protect its users' data, what constitutes a reliable PIA, and what other benefits it can provide to an organization:

What is the Purpose of Privacy Impact Assessment?

At its core, a PIA is a mechanism through which organizations effectively identify and assess the potential privacy risks posed to data subjects whose personal data is being processed.

A PIA assesses the risks posed throughout the lifecycle of a data processing project, on the bases of which appropriate mitigation measures may be drafted and implemented by the data controller to avoid or lessen the identified risks to the privacy or rights of the affected data subjects.

Therefore, the primary purpose of conducting PIAs is to identify, analyze and minimize the risks posed to the personal data of data subjects by controllers’ processing activities. The secondary purpose is to document the entire activity for the purposes of accountability.

Based on the applicable data privacy regulations, PIAs may be obligatory for the organizations; therefore, conducting PIAs may also serve the purpose of compliance with the relevant data privacy regulations and save the organizations from sanctions/penalties. But even if they are not an imposed obligation as per the law, they can still be conducted and carried out as a best practice for responsible use of data subject’s personal data.

It is also a requirement that a PIA be constantly reviewed and kept updated, especially whenever there is a change in the type of processing or any other factor that can change the potential risks posed to the data subjects (i.e., the use of new technology).

Benefits of a Privacy Impact Assessment

Conducting PIAs is one of the best mechanisms for organizations to achieve Privacy by Design (PbD) - a mandatory requirement under some data privacy regulations, e.g., the GDPR.

Apart from the obvious benefit of yielding compliance with the applicable data privacy regulations, PIAs offer organizations the chance to leverage several other holistic benefits, such as the following:


A proactive approach in conducting regular and effective PIAs can serve as a warning system and help organizations identify potential risks early on and take mitigation measures. This early identification of risks allows the organizations to develop privacy controls and mitigate privacy risks early in the development process at a cost much less than it would take at a later stage in the project lifecycle.


With the ever-increasing privacy concerns, the market reputation is arguably the most vital asset for any data-driven organization. Users are now better informed and knowledgeable about their data rights than ever before. An organization with a transparent and effective PIA mechanism in place is more likely to achieve a sense of trustworthiness among its users conveying to the data subjects that the organization takes the handling of their personal data seriously. It bolsters the users' confidence in the organization's resolve and commitment to undertaking all the relevant measures to protect their data appropriately.

What Should A Privacy Impact Assessment Contain

Different privacy regulations have prescribed their own guidelines on how to carry out a PIA and what it should contain.

Nevertheless, the following are some common elements of a PIA under most of the data privacy regulations, which should provide you with the firm foundation necessary to conduct PIA of your organization’s upcoming data processing activities:

  • Detailed analysis and description of all the data processing activities your organization currently performs or plans to perform along with the purpose of that processing;
  • An assessment of the necessity and proportionality of the processing activity;
  • Identification of all key personnel involved in the handling of users' personal data;
  • An assessment of the potential risks posed to the privacy and the rights of the data subjects due to the processing of their personal data;
  • How the organization plans to mitigate these risks - including safeguards, security measures and mechanisms to ensure the protection of personal data;
  • Detailed documentation of the entire process;
  • A final determination if the processing activity should continue based on the risks posed to the data subjects (after all potential mitigating measures have been implemented) in contrast to the benefits to the public or to the data subjects or to the data controller from the proposed processing activity.

How Can Securiti Help

PIAs may seem straightforward in how they will be conducted. However, the minute differences between the various regulatory requirements per each regulation and country mean that manually attempting this task would be a strenuous endeavor. In such an environment, automation is the only way an organization can continue to conduct effective and reliable PIAs whilst ensuring complete compliance with its regulatory obligations.

Securiti, a leader in providing enterprise data security, privacy, governance, and compliance solutions, can greatly help thanks to its Data Command Center.

Within the Data Command Center, organizations gain access to several modules and products that can prove vital in complying with various regulatory obligations such as PIAs. Organizations can automate the entire processing of privacy impact assessments and have it streamlined with privacy-by-design integrated triggers to ensure all such assessments are regularly updated regarding the relevant regulations.

Securiti provides several built-in, customizable, and importable assessment templates that can be dynamically managed based on organizational needs. Assessment progress can be monitored in real-time, providing 360-degree visibility on all assessments.

Request a demo today to learn more about how Securiti's Data Command Center can help your organization comply with its data regulatory requirements.

Omer Imran Malik

Authored by Omer Imran Malik

Omer Imran Malik (CIPP/US, CIPM) is a data privacy and technology lawyer with significant experience in advising governments, technology companies, NGOs and legislative think-thanks on data privacy and technology related legal issues and is an expert in modeling legal models for legal technology. He has been a prominent contributor to numerous esteemed publications, including Dawn News, IAPP and has spoken at the World Ethical Data Forum as well.

His in-depth knowledge and extensive experience in the industry make him a trusted source for cutting-edge insights and information in the ever-evolving world of data privacy, technology and AI related legal developments.

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