Aug 01, 2019

PIA or DPIA: What’s the Difference?

The ongoing changes in the digital space during the last decade eventually brought the privacy concern into new legislation requiring organizations to run Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments.

The cyberspace contains petabytes of private information. Whether furnished by the users on a formal request from the online service providers or exposed voluntarily in the social media networks, personal information is always an attractive target for cybercriminals.

The ongoing changes in the digital space during the last decade eventually brought the privacy concern into new legislation requiring organizations to run Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments.

Let us take a look at the simplified definitions of these two terms.

  • Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) is all about analyzing how an entity collects, uses, shares, and maintains personally identifiable information, related to existing risks.
  • Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is all about identifying and minimizing risks associated with the processing of personal data.

Despite the fact that PIA and DPIA acronyms are used interchangeably in many situations, these assessment procedures play different roles.

The Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) is a process used to protect privacy by design when an organization starts or acquires a new business, implements a new process, or launches a new product.

The Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is an on-going process, regularly applied to personal data processing, identifying and mitigating risks. The DPIA is a part of the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance activities.

When is a DPIA Required under GDPR?

All activities related to handling personally identifiable data belong to high-risk operations. This can broadly include any automated monitoring, collection, and evaluation of personal data, massive processing specific information like an individual’s healthcare or criminal records, etc.

Article 29 of the EU Working Party Guidelines for GDPR lists activities, which if misused or compromised, can have a negative impact. These are a few examples of relevant, business-critical areas that apply here:


Some EU member states (and the UK) create national ‘Blacklists’ and ‘Whitelists’ to provide guidance on which processes do and do not require DPIA. Infopulse will help you to identify relevant requirements in the countries you operate in.

PIA and DPIA Fundamentals

The basic principles of PIA and DPIA are similar. It is an iterative cycle of four sequential stages:

  • Defining the context of personal data processing;
  • Establishing controls to ensure compliance with the fundamental principles;
  • Assessing associated privacy risks;
  • Validating the attained data protection level.

During each stage of a PIA or DPIA, you need to define:

  • The parties (data controllers, processors, and subjects);
  • The data nature and scope;
  • The purposes of data processing;
  • The compliance requirements under GDPR and/or other legislation.

The data protection fundamental principles, as defined by GDPR, include data minimization, quality, storage periods, transfer to third parties, protection of data subject’s rights, etc.

An assessment describes the sources, vulnerabilities, threats, scenarios, and the probable impact including its severity and likelihood.

The validation stage comprises analysis of the information received during the previous stages, checking data security controls, mapping risks, and formulating an Action Plan with assigned responsible persons.

How We Can Help

At Infopulse, we understand how daunting Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments can be. In delivering solutions to global organizations, we understand the challenge of managing compliance across many industries, geographies, and legal jurisdictions.

We created the Standards Compliance Manager as a cloud-based set of features to simplify the process of managing PIA, DPIA, and other standards, combined with a range of services, tailored to your needs.

We also provide an initial Discovery to determine how best to apply Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments in your organization. This, if nothing else, enables you to engage fresh eyes on the topic of compliance, in relation to PIA or DPIA considerations, and crucially, quickly identify areas of vulnerability and quick-win solutions.

Let’s set up a 30-minute call to explore this further.

Request a trial

Try it!

Benefit of free usage of the Infopulse SCM for 3 months to find out how the solution can optimize and streamline your compliance management. Please fill out this form, choose the standards and features you are most interested in. Our consultants will be glad to deliver a personalized webinar for you explaining step by step all the benefits of the SCM adoption.