What Is Test Data Privacy?

There’s a lot of meaning in the three-word term ‘Test Data Privacy.’ At a high level, it is data protection management or data masking while working on high security IT upgrades in the test phase. And then the concept gets more complex.

All developers need test data in order to make sure the applications they are writing work correctly and produce desired results.  For years, the task of creating test data simply involved making copies of datasets and databases from production- or live-environments.  While organizations may think that their core data is immune from external privacy threats, environments outside of the production perimeter (such as testing, development, or quality assurance) usually have far less robust security controls.  Access to these areas is typically more widely exposed to a larger variety of resources, such as in-house staff, consultants, partners, outsourcers, and offshore personnel.  Studies conducted by research firms and industry analysts reveal that the largest percentage of data breaches occur internally, within the enterprise.

Implementing a test data privacy solution is much more complex than just finding where the sensitive data is located and de-identifying it in some way.  There are three questions every business needs to answer before they can move forward:

  1. Where is the data coming from? (Internal and/or external sources, mainframe and/or distributed data stores)
  2. Where is the data going?
  3. Who owns the data?

Once these questions have been answered, then the process of analyzing where the sensitive data is located, and if it needs to be disguised, can begin.

A thorough test data privacy solution is a combination of the technology, expertise, and best practices needed to support data protection initiatives across the enterprise.  The solution itself is comprised of five phases: Assessment, Analysis, Design, Development, and Delivery.  By implementing a test data privacy solution, an organization can reduce its risk of exposure, increase productivity, and lower the cost of regulatory compliance.

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