How the Modern Data Warehouse Helps Ease the Burden of GDPR

Author: Ross Perez

Market News, Snowflake News, Snowflake Technology

While many activities driving an organization’s GDPR compliance are in the organization’s own hands, its IT vendors should help satisfy their customers’ compliance requirements. At a minimum, an organization’s SaaS vendors should satisfy the security requirements that wholly reside in their domain but impact their customer’s business and data security. Snowflake was built from the ground up and in ways that can ease the burden of complying with GDPR, especially for security – and customer-focused organizations.

Snowflake was designed from the beginning to handle an enormous amount of structured and semi-structured data with the ease of standard SQL. The accessibility and simplicity of SQL gives organizations the flexibility to seamlessly make any updates, changes or deletions required under GDPR. Snowflake’s support for semi-structured data can make it easier to adapt to new fields and other record changes. In addition, delivering industry-best security has been fundamental to the architecture, implementation and operation of Snowflake’s data warehouse-as-a-service since day one.

A core principle of GDPR

A major GDPR compliance factor is understanding what data an organization holds and to whom it relates. This requirement demands that data is structured, organized and easy to search.

Snowflake’s relational, SQL database architecture provides a significantly simplified structure and organization, ensuring that each record has a unique and easily identified location within the database. Snowflake customers can also combine relational storage with Snowflake’s Variant column type for semi-structured data. This approach extends the simplicity of the relational format to the schema flexibility of semi-structured data.

Snowflake is made even more powerful by its ability to support massive concurrency. With larger organizations, there may be dozens or even hundreds of concurrent data modifications, queries and searches occuring at any one time. Traditional data warehouses can’t scale beyond a single cluster of compute at any given time, leading to long queues and delayed compliance. Snowflake’s multi-cluster, shared data architecture solves this problem by enabling as many unique clusters of compute resources for any purpose, leading to more efficient workload isolation and query throughput. Anyone can store, organize, modify, search and query very large amounts of data with as many concurrent users or operations as necessary.

Data subject rights

Organizations affected by GDPR must ensure they can comply with data subject requests. Individuals now have significantly expanded rights for learning about what type of data an organization holds about them and the right to request accessing and/or correcting their data, having the data deleted, and/or porting the data to a new provider. When providing these services, organizations must respond fairly quickly, generally within 30 days. Therefore they must quickly search their business systems and data warehouse to locate all personal data related to an individual and take action.

Organizations can greatly benefit from storing all their data in a data warehouse-as-a-service with full DML and SQL capabilities. It eases the burden of searching various discrete business systems and data stores to locate the relevant data. This helps to ensure that individual records can be searched, deleted, restricted, updated, truncated, split and otherwise manipulated to align with data subject requests. It also makes it possible to move data to comply with a “right to portability” request. From the beginning, Snowflake was architected with ANSI-standard SQL and full DML to ensure these types of operations are possible.

Security

Unfortunately, many traditional data warehouses require security to be home-built and cobbled together with services outside of the core offering. What’s more, they may not even enable encryption out of the box.

As the modern data warehouse built for the cloud, Snowflake was built to ensure stringent security as a key feature of the service. Snowflake has key, built-in protections and security features, including:

  • Zero management – Snowflake reduces complexity with built-in performance, security and high availability so there’s no infrastructure to tweak, no knobs to turn and no tuning required.
  • Encryption everywhere – Snowflake automatically encrypts all data at rest and in transit.
  • Comprehensive protection – Security features include multi-factor authentication, role-based access control, IP address whitelisting, federated authentication and annual rekeying of encrypted data.
  • Tri-Secret Secure – Ensures customer control and data protection by combining a customer-provided encryption key along with a Snowflake-provided encryption key and user credentials.
  • Support for AWS Private LinkCustomers can transmit data between their virtual private network and Snowflake without accessing the Internet, making inter-network connectivity secure and easier to manage.
  • Stronger intra-company data demarcation through Snowflake Data Sharing – Leverage Snowflake’s data sharing features to share non-PII data with other teams in your organization who don’t need access by enforcing stronger security and GDPR controls.
  • Private deployment – Enterprises can get a dedicated and managed instance of Snowflake within a separate AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

Accountability

To add to the complexity, organizations must also ensure they and the organizations and tools they work with are able to demonstrate compliance. Snowflake aggressively audits and perfects its security practice on an ongoing basis, with regular penetration testing. The Snowflake data warehouse-as-a-service is SOC 2 Type II certified, PCI DSS compliant and supports HIPAA compliance and customers can audit data as it has been manipulated to comply with data subject requests.  

In addition to these out of the box capabilities and validations, Snowflake also provides customers with our Data Protection Addendum, which is tightly aligned with GDPR requirements. Snowflake also adheres to robust contractual security commitments to facilitate more efficient transactions and simplified due diligence.

Conclusion

Under the GDPR, companies must implement technical measures that will help them respond to the data protection and privacy needs of their customers. Snowflake provides not only the benefit of storing all critical customer data in a single location, it enables rapid location and retrieval of that data so businesses can take action.