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Are Privacy Spreadsheets Enough to Stay Compliant?

Casey Kuktelionis

Your Privacy Spreadsheets Might be Putting Your Organization at Risk

Years ago, it was possible to manage a privacy program using spreadsheets. However, with the massive increase in data collection and new privacy regulations, those privacy spreadsheets are starting to add up.

If you’ve been around privacy for a while, you know the drill. A new regulation gets passed and it’s time to reinvent the wheel. After weeks of updating and passing a spreadsheet back and forth, it’s nearly complete.

But wait, information was added in the wrong place and you still can’t find what you need for reporting.

Privacy spreadsheet management is time-consuming, exhausting, and anything but collaborative.

As the risks of non-compliance continue to increase for organizations, privacy teams need a solution designed specifically for privacy management.

Privacy Spreadsheets are Falling Short

Most organizations today will fall under one or more of the current data privacy regulations. Compliance may even be required if an organization isn’t within the geographical boundary of the region or state in which the law resides.

For example, you may be targeting customers, working with vendors, or transferring data to or from those areas.

Additionally, more employees and departments than ever are collecting and or using personal information. Data is often collected and used across marketing, sales, human resources, product development, and customer success teams.

To ensure there are no gaps in compliance, organizations need to foster a culture of privacy.

This can become nearly impossible to maintain with privacy spreadsheets as your foundation. At this point, the pace and complexity of the privacy landscape are too much for spreadsheets to manage.

What are Privacy Spreadsheets Missing?


Privacy management isn’t as simple as checking off a box and moving on to the next one. Keeping privacy spreadsheets up to date is a tedious, time-consuming, manual process.

There is no logic or intuition aside from a human operator. As a result, opportunities are missed to increase efficiency for reporting, board presentations, and certification.

Often privacy regulations share some common ground. Some steps that the organization has already completed may apply to new laws going forward.

However, if you’re managing privacy using spreadsheets, you probably don’t have a way to identify and apply that knowledge.

Hundreds of hours are wasted repeating the same tasks. The same is also true when you think about assessments and reporting.

As organizations are subjected to more regulations, the inefficiencies of privacy spreadsheets continue to stack up and slow down privacy teams.


Technological advances over the past few decades have increased organizations’ dependence on data. Consumers have welcomed Internet of Things (IoT) devices into their homes.

Consequently, organizations are collecting massive quantities of personal information.

While these datasets provide employees with valuable information, the opportunities to misuse data increase.

Privacy spreadsheets can’t accurately track when data is being collected, stored, and shared across the organization or with vendors. In most cases, additional tools and technologies are needed to supplement spreadsheets.

As more regulations come into play and more departments are held accountable for responsible data use, managing multiple spreadsheets and tools is quickly becoming a disorganized mess.


Attempting to collaborate through privacy spreadsheets is a recipe for disaster. It’s true, you can share spreadsheets with your team or the entire organization.

However, sharing isn’t the same as collaborating.

Keeping a privacy program updated requires many individuals across the organization to weigh in. Reports and assessments need to be generated and completed by various departments.

If you’re using a spreadsheet to accomplish this, there is no way to alert people of your needs or track their changes. Furthermore, much time is wasted while waiting for others to finish their parts.

Efficient collaboration is necessary for organizations that treat privacy as a strategic priority.


You’ve probably noticed that changes in privacy are happening fast. Additionally, when customers or vendors make requests about their data, regulations often require organizations to respond within a specific number of days.

These facts put additional pressure on privacy officers with already constrained resources.

As regulatory reporting needs and data subject information requests increase, privacy spreadsheets lack the speed required to keep your organization compliant.

The Advantages of Managing Privacy with Software

Organizations that recognize privacy as a competitive advantage, use software designed specifically for privacy management. The alternative is just too costly.

A breach or misuse of personal data could not only result in a fine, but it can also become far more expensive if consumer trust is lost.

Furthermore, customers are becoming more savvy with their privacy. People intentionally seek out companies such as Apple and Xiaomi who make privacy a priority.

The same is especially true for those in the B2B sectors. Organizations can end up in the cross-fire if their partner organizations or vendors aren’t taking privacy seriously.

Proper privacy management is an essential requirement for business today. Software that is designed for this purpose empowers a culture of privacy within your organization.

The goal is for every employee to understand privacy management, not just those who handle the privacy spreadsheets.

Privacy software makes it easier to support privacy impact assessments (PIAs) and enables faster responses with build in automation and logic.

You’ll also get time back in your day with proactive risk notifications, on-demand reporting, and easy collaboration across the organization.

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