Kathryne (Kate) M. Morris is a privacy
and technology lawyer in Dallas, Texas. Her
practice focuses on data deals, technology
transactions, e-commerce, and compliance with privacy and
data-protection laws. Morris is a member of Clark Hill
Strasburger’s privacy, data and cybersecurity practice. She is
certified by the International Association of Privacy Profes-
sionals as a certified information privacy professional in the
United States (CIPP/US) and Europe (CIPP/E), and as a
Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM). Reach Morris
hese threats seem to have captured
the attention of many industries, but
the mortgage industry appears to be lagging behind,
perhaps because many mortgage businesses have
failed to see the need or are simply unaware of the
But it can have a real impact on mortgage companies in the U.S. What happens when a German
purchases a vacation home in Florida, for instance?
The scope of GDPR is to protect all EU citizens, even
ones who are doing business abroad. GDPR may
apply even if a U.S. mortgage company has no
employees or offices in the EU.
Although this still needs to be sorted out, it’s clear
this is an issue that isn’t going away and is likely to
be further addressed. Several states are looking at
similar privacy protections, most recently with the
California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which was
signed into law this past June and goes into effect on
Jan. 1, 2020.
Most mortgage companies delegate data protection
to their information technology (IT) departments and
often allow IT, human resources and marketing teams
to contract for services and software on their own.
But compliance with GDPR requires a comprehensive
and holistic approach in which privacy and data protection are interwoven into everyday operations, not
just as responses to data breaches.
If you are collecting personal data from EU residents on loan applications or for other purposes,
have data-storage locations and service providers in
the EU, or even have a website with cookies that can
track EU residents, then you need to prioritize compliance with GDPR now.
It may no longer be enough to ask whether a borrower is a U.S. citizen or not. Under GDPR, EU citizens
have fundamental rights with respect to the processing of their personal data. So, if you are processing
the personal data of an EU citizen, you need to know
the law. Ignorance of citizenship is not a defense.
Now is the time to review how your company is
handling these matters. The easiest way to start your
company’s compliance efforts is to get management
involved in order to command attention, knock down
departmental silos, establish a budget if necessary
and ensure follow-through. Document their decisions
If GDPR is only now appearing on your radar, then it
may be time to reach out to a privacy lawyer or hire
an in-house lawyer with expertise on this subject,
not only to provide GDPR-related compliance advice,
compliance risks posed both by new legislation and
by outsourced services.
Note that in certain limited circumstances, GDPR
actually requires the appointment of a data-protection officer who is qualified with, among other
things, “expert knowledge of data protection law and
practices.” Expertise and a holistic approach to privacy, data protection and cybersecurity are valuable.
Consider alternative organizational models and
web or mobile presences, including EU-based entities and websites. Some companies, whose primary
exposure to GDPR arises through their websites, have
even chosen to “go dark” in the EU, for the time being.
Now also is the time for your company to review
and update its cybersecurity measures. GDPR requires the implementation of appropriate technical
and organizational measures to ensure a level of
security appropriate to the risk.
Consider the use of encryption. Encryption is not
mandatory, but it may provide many defenses and
solutions to common problems. Also consider independent certification standards, such as the ISO
27000 series. This is not mandatory either, but it can
help show challengers the seriousness of your resolve
and the reasonability of your steps.
Prepare data maps, inventories and other records
of all personal data pertaining to EU (and California)
residents. GDPR requires that you understand what
personal data you are collecting and processing. You
also are required to keep a record of all processing
activities under your responsibility.
It is strongly suggested that you consider borrower
information as a living entity, and as such, you should
implement onboarding and offboarding policies and
procedures, just like you do (or should do) for staff.
Review contracts with service providers and employees to ensure that they are GDPR compliant. The law
requires that “data controllers” and “data processors”
contract appropriately to protect personal data. You
are one or the other. If you aren’t already addressing
privacy and data protection as part of your procurement and contracting process, it is time to start.
Transparency under GDPR requires that a data controller “be able to demonstrate that personal data
are processed in a transparent manner in relation
to the data subject.” Re-examine your website to
confirm you know how and who is processing such
data, review the related contracts with your service
providers and update the privacy notice on your
website so that it is GDPR compliant.
Prepare for data-subject requests from consumers.
GDPR empowers individuals to request information
related to their data privacy. The mechanics of res-
ponding to these requests need to be worked out in
order to facilitate timely responses.
Update your written data-protection policies and
procedures. The GDPR principle of accountability
also requires documentation (such as incident-response plans, document-retention policies and procedures for responding to a requests related to data-subject rights, etc.) to prove compliance with GDPR.
Data protection is an issue for your entire business.
Your employees should be aware of data-protection
issues and your organization’s related policies and
procedures. Think of loan officers transferring borrower data into their customer-relationship management software for drip-marketing campaigns. How
will your company hope to prevent this, or even control it, if loan officers aren’t aware of the regulations?
GDPR is here and the risks are serious. Unless your
company can mechanically ensure that it has no
contact with individuals or service providers in the
EU, then you’re at risk.
n n n
Finally, even if you have nothing to do with Europe
or Europeans, your company is probably doing business with California or Californians, and the new
California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 requires
you to safeguard the privacy of California residents
in ways that are very similar to the GDPR. Now is the
time to re-evaluate privacy and data protection in
your business. n
Stacey Geringer has more than 25 years of
experience in the development, sales and
marketing of software products and services
in the U. S., Europe and Central America. Geringer founded
software companies Collabrian Design & Technology in 2000
and Mortgage Bank Solutions in 2006, and continues to serve
as president of both companies. She started her career as a
software developer at LTV Aerospace after graduating from
the University of Texas with a degree in computer science.
Reach Geringer at email@example.com or
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