Skip to content

Top Privacy by Design Principles for the Cloud

More than 90% of organizations use the cloud today, and for good reason. Small and medium businesses that used the cloud made 21% more profit than those that didn’t, and finance companies reported revenue increases of up to 15% from their cloud adoption.

But as businesses rely more and more on the cloud, data privacy becomes more and more important. Massive breaches of cloud data have exposed the personal data of hundreds of millions of users and cost billions of dollars in damages. Meanwhile, noncompliance with data privacy laws has cost large corporations tens of millions of dollars in fines.

To protect data from tampering and compromise, companies have begun implementing privacy by design (PbD). Based on a mindset of proactivity and prevention rather than reactivity and remediation, PbD is helping organizations adapt to the challenging modern-day threat landscape.

What is privacy by design?

Privacy by design is a framework based on proactively integrating privacy elements in the early stages of design into a company’s IT systems, infrastructures, communication systems, and daily operations. As opposed to retroactively adding security measures to existing systems, a PbD mindset includes data protection and privacy from the very start.

Although the term itself originated in the 1990s, privacy by design has recently taken off — thanks in large part to the rise of cloud computing and the growth of cyberthreats.

Privacy by design traditionally includes seven foundational principles, but we’ve distilled these down to five top fundamentals for the cloud:

  1. Being proactive and preventative
  2. Making privacy the default setting
  3. Maintaining transparency
  4. Maintaining full functionality
  5. Achieving end-to-end security

Below, we’ll explore each of these principles in depth.

What are the top privacy by design principles for the cloud?

1. Being proactive and preventive

One of the most important features of the PbD framework is taking the initiative to protect sensitive data at all levels of a business. Companies must implement not only the right data protection technology but also the right procedures and workflows, and they must work to foster a culture of privacy awareness.

PbD doesn’t wait for privacy threats to materialize, and it doesn’t offer remedies for resolving problems once they have already occurred. Instead, its goal is to preserve data privacy from the start, anticipating and halting cyberattacks or inadvertent data exposure before anything actually happens.

This approach is particularly crucial for data stored in the cloud. Cloud customers do not have physical control over where their sensitive data is stored, and implementing strong data privacy from the start will help prevent reportable breaches.

Additionally, having proactive data privacy policies can help companies build trust with clients who may be hesitant to use cloud storage. With a robust data privacy solution in place, organizations can provide assurance that their clients’ sensitive information will be adequately protected. 

2. Making privacy the default setting

The idea of privacy as a default in the cloud means that all systems, services, and tools that process personal data should be designed to automatically protect that data. In other words, users and employees should not have to opt-in to privacy settings; those settings should already be in place.

The responsibility for privacy by default falls on multiple parties in the cloud. First, cloud service providers should design their systems to automatically protect personal data by default and to allow customers to configure their privacy settings as needed. Second, businesses should never assume that their data is private in the cloud and should instead ensure that their privacy settings are automatically set to the highest level of protection.

Both privacy by design (a broader framework) and privacy by default (a specific requirement within that framework) are crucial parts of compliance with cross-border data regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

3. Maintaining transparency

Transparency in the context of PdB involves companies providing clear and concise information about their collection, processing, and use of personal data. It also requires cloud service providers to clearly and transparently communicate their data processing practices — including how personal data is collected, used, and shared — with both companies and individuals. To maintain transparency, businesses should even provide customers with access to their personal data and enable them to correct or delete that data if necessary.

Building clear lines of communication into the process early-on is crucial for PbD. It’s also a requirement for many cross-border data regulations, so it’s especially important for companies to enact if they need to maintain compliance in the cloud.

4. Maintaining full functionality

So far, we’ve discussed maintaining strong data privacy for sensitive data, a crucial part of PbD in the cloud. But it’s also important not to forget why you migrated to the cloud in the first place: improved functionality.

While companies are ensuring that data privacy is an inherent part of their systems and operations, they also need to make sure they’re not compromising functionality in the cloud. The goal is to embrace a positive-sum, win-win approach and avoid the false dichotomy of security versus performance.

5. Achieving end-to-end security

For true PbD, data privacy and security must be implemented not just during data storage or data transfer but rather at every stage of the data lifecycle. Data must be securely retained and stored until it is time to securely destroy it. This is especially important in the cloud, where storage administrators and other unauthorized third parties may have access to data.

Implementing privacy by design with ShardSecure

The ShardSecure platform helps organizations achieve advanced data privacy in the cloud. Our solution fits a PbD framework by separating sensitive data from infrastructure owners like cloud admins before it's written to storage. Whether you store your data in a single cloud, multiple clouds, or a hybrid mix of cloud and on-prem locations, ShardSecure prevents that data from being read or reconstructed by unauthorized users. The platform's emphasis on data privacy also addresses data sovereignty and compliance concerns, including with regulations like SOC 2 and the EU's GDPR.

Keeping privacy at the forefront of your modern cloud architecture can be challenging. Let ShardSecure help you regain control today.


55 Cloud Computing Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind | Cloud Zero

Privacy by Design (PbD): A Definitive Guide and Why It Matters | CMS Wire

Privacy by Design | Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

GDPR-Privacy by Design and by Default | Deloitte Switzerland

The Transformational Impact of Cloud | Cloud Industry Forum

Privacy by Design: Principle 4 | Global Privacy and Security by Design

Privacy & Security | Identification for Development