The Complexities of GDPR Compliance with Offshore WordPress Maintenance work.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted by the European Union in May 2018, represents a significant leap forward in data protection laws.

Its primary objective is to ensure personal data is handled securely and transparently.

For businesses maintaining WordPress websites, this regulation carries substantial implications, particularly when involving offshore developers for maintenance contracts.

While offshore developers can offer cost-effective and skilled services, there are notable concerns about GDPR compliance and data security.

If you are based in the UK, it’s crucial to check with your current WordPress maintenance provider to see where the actual work is being done.

If it’s outside the EU, you could infringe GDPR by allowing third-party access to data across borders.

Understanding GDPR

GDPR mandates stringent rules for the collection, storage, and handling of personal data belonging to EU citizens.

It requires businesses to obtain explicit user consent, ensure data minimisation, provide the right to access and erasure and report data breaches within 72 hours.

Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, including fines up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s global turnover, whichever is higher.

The Role of Offshore Developers

Offshore developers are a popular choice for WordPress maintenance due to their cost efficiency and access to a broad talent pool.

These developers typically handle tasks such as updates, backups, security monitoring, and performance optimisation.

However, their access to website data, including personal data of users, raises significant GDPR compliance issues.

Key Issues with Using Offshore Developers

  1. Jurisdictional Differences: Offshore developers, particularly those based outside the EU, are not directly bound by GDPR. This jurisdictional gap can lead to challenges in enforcing GDPR compliance, as non-EU entities may not be familiar with or obligated to follow the regulation’s stringent requirements.
  2. Data Transfer Risks: Transferring data across borders can introduce vulnerabilities. GDPR imposes strict rules on international data transfers, ensuring that personal data remains protected to EU standards. Using offshore developers requires businesses to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place, such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs).
  3. Data Breach Response: Offshore developers with access to website data may introduce additional complexities in breach management. Ensuring timely breach reporting and management within the 72-hour window becomes more challenging when different time zones and legal frameworks are involved.
  4. Vendor Reliability and Control: Trust and control over third-party vendors are crucial. Businesses must conduct thorough due diligence to ensure offshore developers have robust data protection practices. This includes reviewing their data handling policies, security measures, and previous track record with data protection.
  5. Accountability and Liability: GDPR emphasises accountability, meaning businesses are responsible for ensuring compliance throughout their data processing chain. If an offshore developer mishandles data, the business remains liable for breaches or non-compliance.

Mitigating Risks

To mitigate the risks associated with using offshore developers, businesses can adopt several strategies:

  • Data Processing Agreements: Ensure that comprehensive Data Processing Agreements (DPAs) are in place, clearly outlining the offshore developers’ responsibilities and obligations regarding data protection and GDPR compliance.
  • Regular Audits and Assessments: Conduct regular audits and assessments of the offshore developers’ data protection practices. This includes verifying their compliance with GDPR requirements and ability to securely handle personal data.
  • Training and Awareness: Provide training and resources to offshore developers to increase their awareness of GDPR and its implications. This can help bridge the knowledge gap and ensure better compliance.
  • Technical Safeguards: Implement technical safeguards such as encryption, pseudonymisation, and access controls to protect personal data. This reduces the risk of data breaches and unauthorised access by offshore developers.
  • Local Representation: Consider appointing a local representative within the EU to oversee GDPR compliance and act as a point of contact for data subjects and regulatory authorities.

Due diligence.

There are many WordPress support agencies that can appear to be large UK-based companies, but when you dig a little deeper, you find that they simply farm out your work to the cheapest off-shore freelancers on Fiverr.

To ensure your business complies with GDPR rules, you must have safeguards to avoid facing a potential fine.

When you give someone access to your WordPress site for any reason, they will also have access to the following:

  • Form submissions on your site for members of the public and other businesses
  • Data about purchases, with customer names and addresses, if you have a WooCommerce store
  • Potential access to your entire site database, and personal information that holds
  • They will potentially be downloading protected data across borders (if they work in a local environment
  • Access to all your site admins and users, together with their personal information

For this reason, you will have to ensure that the appropriate safeguards and policies are in place.

You might not even know this is happening, so it’s vital to ask your WordPress support agency.

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While offshore developers offer valuable advantages for WordPress maintenance, their involvement necessitates careful consideration of GDPR compliance.

The complexities of jurisdictional differences, data transfer risks, and accountability highlight the importance of robust data protection measures and vigilant oversight.

By adopting stringent safeguards and maintaining a proactive approach to compliance, businesses can effectively navigate the challenges of using offshore developers while safeguarding personal data and adhering to GDPR requirements.

Alternatively, you can just make sure that your WordPress maintenance agency is based in the UK, like we are.

David Foreman

David Foreman

Dave is the Managing Director at Toast and has been working with websites for over 25 years. He's a WordPress expert and has built 100s of WP sites. He now mainly works in improving organic SEO for clients.