Security compliance services help tackle online payments securely. Online payments involve financial data associated with debt or credit cards that are the main source of online transactions. According to CYTRIO research, almost 95% of companies are required to meet GDPR compliance. Organizations that are using or processing EU citizens’ data need GDPR compliance irrespective of their location. PCI DSS secures financial data and transactions. Research has revealed that in 2020, almost 43.4% of companies had full PCI DSS compliance. It indicates there is still a high risk of cyberattack threats and data breaches. The increased usage of online systems and purchases has dramatically enhanced security concerns. GDPR is the legislation developed by the EU for the safety of its citizens who are becoming part of e-commerce. Non-compliance with GDPR may result in huge fines and other penalties. PCI and GDPR compliance, combined can make your website’s online payment more secure. Let’s look at the differences and similarities between the two.

What is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a set of security standards established by leading credit card brands (Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express, and JCB) to secure cardholder data and to ensure that companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

PCI DSS applies to any entity that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data. Compliance is enforced by the payment card brands and acquiring banks. Merchants and service providers must validate compliance annually through an assessment by a qualified security assessor.

What are the key roles of PCI compliance?

The role of PCI compliance is to ensure the secure handling, processing, and storage of payment card data by organizations involved in credit card transactions. PCI compliance plays a critical role in retaining the safety of sensitive cardholder data and avoiding data breaches, deception, and illegal access.

A set of security standards established by leading credit card brands (Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express, and JCB) to secure cardholder data refers to PCI DSS. Companies that use, store, or transmit payment card data must comply with PCI DSS to protect cardholder information from potential security risks.

Here are the key roles of PCI compliance:

Data security 

PCI compliance ensures that organizations implement robust security measures to secure payment card data from unauthorized access, theft, or misuse. It establishes standards for data encryption, access controls, and a secure network architecture to safeguard sensitive information.

Risk reduction 

Organizations adhering to PCI DSS requirements reduce the risk of data breaches and fraud incidents. Compliance helps identify payment card data environment vulnerabilities and implement measures to mitigate potential risks.

Consumer trust 

PCI compliance enhances customer trust and confidence in businesses. Their awareness of data safety enhances their loyalty and satisfaction.

Legal and regulatory compliance 

Complying with PCI DSS ensures that organizations meet legal and regulatory requirements for protecting payment card data. Unsuccessful compliance with PCI DSS can result in severe financial penalties and reputational damage.

By implementing best practices in data security, organizations reduce the likelihood of security incidents that could lead to financial losses and damage to the brand’s reputation. Compliance with PCI DSS helps prevent financial losses and demonstrates a commitment to data protection and responsible business practices.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area. It was adopted in 2016, and became enforceable beginning May 25, 2018.

The regulation applies to organizations located in the EU and non-EU organizations that offer goods or services to individuals located in the EU. The GDPR aims to give individuals greater control over their personal data and impose strict rules on those collecting and processing this data. 

Learn more about GDPR here.

Significance of GDPR

Data protection and privacy rights are protected through GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation), a significant piece of legislation within the European Union (EU) and further than. Its significance lies in several key aspects:

Enhanced data protection

GDPR strengthens data protection measures for individuals by giving them more control over their data. It authorizes individuals the right to access, rectify, and erase their data and object to data processing and request data portability.

Extraterritorial reach

GDPR applies to all companies processing data of EU citizens, regardless of where the company is located. This expands the reach of EU data protection laws. This extraterritorial reach makes GDPR a global standard for data protection, encouraging organizations worldwide to adopt similar measures to protect personal data.

Tougher consent requirements

Companies must get clear, affirmative consent from individuals to process their data. Pre-ticked boxes or implied consent are no longer allowed. Consent must be freely given, informed, and unambiguous.

Harsher penalties

GDPR has defined heavy fines for not considering their protocols. The expected penalties may go up to 4% of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher. It has incentivized organizations to take data protection seriously and prioritize compliance.

Data breach notification

GDPR mandates organizations to notify data breaches to the related supervisory authority and affected persons within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. This requirement enhances transparency and allows individuals to take appropriate measures to protect their data.

Simply, its impact reaches beyond Europe, inspiring data protection reforms and regulations worldwide and encouraging organizations to prioritize data privacy and security as fundamental principles of modern business practices.

Key differences between PCI and GDPR

PCI DSS and GDPR are two distinct regulations that address different aspects of data protection and privacy. However, there are some overlaps and differences between the two:

Scope and applicability

  • PCI DSS: PCI DSS applies specifically to organizations that handle payment card data, such as merchants, service providers, and financial institutions involved in credit card transactions.
  • GDPR: GDPR regulation covers a broader scenario and deals with any company that utilizes the private data of EU citizens, irrespective of the type of data or the industry they operate in.

Focus and purpose

  • PCI DSS: The primary focus of PCI DSS is to protect cardholder data during payment card transactions, ensuring the security and confidentiality of payment information.
  • GDPR: The main focus of GDPR is protecting individuals’ privacy rights and private data, containing any information that can directly or indirectly recognize an individual. It emphasizes the importance of data protection, transparency, and individual rights over their data.

Compliance requirements

  • PCI DSS: PCI DSS outlines specific security requirements and controls that organizations must meet to secure cardholder data and maintain PCI compliance.
  • GDPR: GDPR is more comprehensive and covers various aspects of data protection, including data minimization, lawful processing, consent, data subject rights, breach notification, and more. It requires organizations to implement a comprehensive data protection framework.

Legal basis

  • PCI DSS: PCI DSS is not a legal regulation; it’s a set of security standards created by the major credit card companies to protect payment card data and prevent fraud. Compliance is often contractual, based on agreements with payment card brands.
  • GDPR: GDPR is a legal regulation with legal consequences. Organizations that process the personal data of EU citizens are legally bound to comply with its provisions, and non-compliance can result in fines and penalties.

Key overlaps between PCI and GDPR

Data security

Both PCI DSS and GDPR emphasize the importance of data security. While PCI DSS focuses on securing payment card data, GDPR requires organizations to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data.

Data breach notification

Both regulations require organizations to alert the related authorities and affected persons in the event of a data breach. PCI DSS mandates immediate reporting to the payment card brands and cardholders. At the same time, GDPR requires notification to the related supervisory authority and affected data subjects within dring72 hours of becoming aware of the breach.

Compliance validation

Organizations must validate their compliance with both PCI DSS and GDPR. PCI DSS compliance is typically validated through annual assessments and audits by Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) or Internal Security Assessors (ISAs). GDPR compliance requires organizations to conduct regular data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) and maintain records of data processing activities.

Third-party responsibilities

Both regulations acknowledge the responsibilities of third-party service providers. PCI DSS requires merchants to ensure that third-party payment processors maintain adequate security measures. GDPR mandates data processors to adhere to specific data protection requirements when handling personal data on behalf of data controllers.


Scope and Applicability Specific to payment card data handling Covers personal data of EU citizens
Focus and Purpose Protect cardholder data during transactions Protect EU individuals’ privacy rights and data
Compliance Requirements Security requirements for cardholder data Comprehensive data protection framework
Legal Basis Not a legal regulation; contractual compliance Legal regulation with fines and penalties
Data Security Emphasizes payment card data security Requires technical measures for data protection
Data Breach Notification Immediate reporting to card brands and cardholders Notification to supervisory authority and data subjects within 72 hours
Compliance Validation Validated through assessments and audits Requires regular DPIAs and data processing records
Third-Party Responsibilities Merchants ensure security of payment processors Data processors follow data protection rules

How does PCI compliance contribute to achieving GDPR compliance?

With the adoption of PCI DSS, organizations simultaneously embrace GDPR requirements due to their shared emphasis on safeguarding users’ personal and financial information. By implementing PCI DSS protocols and techniques, organizations establish the necessary infrastructure for meeting GDPR security standards. Consequently, a foundation for achieving GDPR compliance is laid out. When an organization achieves PCI compliance, it signifies an investment in secure technologies and the formulation of robust security procedures.

The key factors contributing to the attainment of GDPR compliance through PCI DSS are as follows:

Breach of data

Any instance of customer data or cardholder information leakage from an organization is deemed a data breach. Both GDPR and PCI DSS treat data breaches with utmost seriousness, holding responsible organizations accountable under both standards. Therefore, PCI DSS compliance broadly addresses GDPR compliance requirements in case of a data breach, simplifying the process of achieving GDPR compliance for organizations already compliant with PCI DSS.

Restricted access to confidential data

Constraining access to collected and stored data is pivotal for both PCI DSS and GDPR compliance. Only authorized individuals with a valid reason should be granted access to data, and their purpose for accessing it must be articulated. Implementing limited authorization facilitates the maintenance of stringent standards.

PCI DSS penetration testing

Professional auditors perform Penetration Tests to identify system vulnerabilities in the context of PCI DSS compliance. The same test serves a dual purpose for GDPR compliance, aiding in the identification of weak points in system security and data protection measures.

Security policies and methods

The procedures and policies devised for PCI DSS implementation are equally adept at fulfilling GDPR security prerequisites. The following are key points to consider:

  • Regular updates to confidential data documentation.
  • Formulating effective strategies for implementing methods that discern data collection and storage impact.
  • Assembling a proficient team of auditors dedicated to upholding both PCI DSS and GDPR compliance.

Wrapping up

In short, while PCI DSS and GDPR have some common goals related to data security and breach notification, they have distinct scopes and requirements. Organizations that handle payment card data should ensure compliance with PCI DSS, while those processing the personal data of EU citizens must comply with GDPR. Some organizations will have to adhere to both sets of regulations if they process payment card information of EU residents. In such cases, organizations should view them as complementary but separate compliance efforts. PCI DSS provides a baseline for payment data security, while GDPR adds obligations for managing EU personal data more broadly. By understanding the overlaps and differences, organizations can take a holistic approach to compliance that satisfies their regulatory responsibilities.

Author bio: Dmitry Kurskov, Head of Information Security at ScienceSoft, is an IBM Certified Deployment Professional with over 20 years of experience architecting and managing cybersecurity systems. He oversees ScienceSoft’s security policies, solutions, and services to align with ISO 27001 standards. Dmitry is a passionate advocate for proactive cybersecurity programs to defend against evolving threats.

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal or professional advice. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of our organization. We do not endorse any products or services mentioned in the article.