Protect Your Data with Salesforce Data Classification

Did you know that the loss of critical, and often sensitive, information can severely impact the profitability and innovation of your organization? And with consumer awareness of data protection on the rise, it’s no surprise that data security has become a mandatory responsibility for organizations running Salesforce. 

What is data classification in Salesforce? 

To protect your most sensitive data, you need to know where to find it. And that's where data classification comes in. In Salesforce, data classification provides a solid foundation for security, giving you a high-level overview of what's in your Org, and where IT resources should be deployed.  

So, what is data classification? It's simply the process of organizing your data into defined categories according to its sensitivity level. Each category corresponds to an impact level and a recommended security/access protocol; public data, for example, can be viewed by anyone, but requires controls to prevent unauthorized editing. Sensitive or confidential data, on the other hand, needs to be more tightly protected, especially if regulations like HIPAA or GDPR are in scope. 

By understanding where different types of data are stored, enterprises are able to build effective and precise controls to protect it. To learn how to create an effective data classification strategy, check out this template.

Why is data classification important?

Data classification plays a vital role in the effective management and protection of data within organizations. By categorizing data based on its sensitivity, value, and regulatory requirements, data classification enables organizations to implement appropriate security measures, mitigate risks, ensure compliance, and make informed decisions. 

Data Protection and Security: Data classification helps organizations identify sensitive and confidential information. By classifying data into categories such as public, internal, confidential, or personally identifiable information (PII), organizations can apply appropriate security measures and controls to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, breaches, or misuse. It ensures that data is handled in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements, industry standards, and internal policies.

Risk Management: Data classification enables organizations to assess and manage risks associated with data. By understanding the sensitivity and criticality of data, organizations can prioritize their resources and efforts to protect high-risk data adequately. It helps in identifying potential vulnerabilities and implementing suitable safeguards to mitigate risks.

Compliance and Legal Requirements: Many industries have specific data protection and privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Data classification helps organizations ensure compliance with these regulations by identifying and appropriately handling sensitive data. It facilitates data governance, audit trails, and the ability to demonstrate compliance during regulatory inspections.

Data Lifecycle Management: Data classification is essential for effective data lifecycle management. By classifying data based on its value, organizations can determine appropriate retention periods, archival strategies, and disposal methods. It helps in reducing storage costs, maintaining data integrity, and ensuring data is available when needed.

Incident Response and Data Breach Management: In the event of a data breach or security incident, data classification aids in swift and targeted response. Organizations can quickly identify the impacted data, assess the extent of the breach, and take appropriate actions to mitigate the damage. It facilitates incident response plans, notification processes, and recovery efforts.

Data Analytics and Insights: Data classification provides a foundation for meaningful data analysis and insights. By categorizing data based on attributes such as type, source, or quality, organizations can efficiently retrieve relevant data for analysis, reporting, and decision-making purposes. It enhances data discoverability and usability, leading to more accurate and valuable insights.

What does data classification look like in Salesforce? 

Your Salesforce Org is home to hundreds of different types of information, from customer names and email addresses to business-critical financial records. To help keep track of this information, Salesforce introduced data classification metadata fields as part of its ‘19 summer release. This feature allows you to add data classification tags to any field in a standard or custom Object. 

Salesforce data classification gives you four fields to categorize and classify data in your Org: Compliance Categorization, Data Owner, Field Usage and Data Sensitivity Level. 

Data Classification Fields in Salesforce

Data Sensitivity

The first question you'll want to ask about a field is 'how sensitive is it?' Who should be able to see it? Who should be able to edit it? Salesforce gives you several default values for this classification:

  • Public: available to the public to view but not alter
  • Internal: available to company employees and contractors; must not be shared publicly, but can be shared with customers, partners and others under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Confidential: available to an approved group of employees and contractors; not restricted by law, regulation or a master service agreement (MSA), and can be shared with customers, partners and others under an NDA
  • Restricted: available only to an approved group of employees and contractors; likely restricted by law, regulation, an NDA or MSA
  • MissionCritical: available only to a small group of approved employees and contractors; third parties who are given access could be subject to heightened contractual requirements, and  almost always restricted by law, regulation or an NDA/MSA

Compliance Categorization

Highly sensitive data may be subject to regulatory scrutiny; the Compliance Categorization field gives you a way to identify data with special privacy requirements that will require additional security controls. Out of the box, Salesforce comes with data classification tabs for the following regulatory standards:

  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)
  • COPPA: (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act)
  • GDPR: (General Data Protection Regulation)
  • HIPAA: (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
  • PCI: (Payment Card Industry)
  • PII: (Personally Identifiable Information)

Organizations in highly regulated industries — healthcare, life sciences and finance are three common examples — can benefit from using these fields to identify and track data that will be of concern to auditors. 

Data Owner

This classification specifies the group or person associated with the field — ie. the person who can answer the questions, 'Is this important?' and 'Can I change this?' As a result, the data owner should be someone who understands the importance of the field’s data to your company; they will likely also be responsible for determining the minimum data sensitivity level and any relevant controls around it.

Field Usage

Finally the Field Usage classification tracks whether the field is in use, which can be useful when conducting a clean up project. The available categories include:

  • Active: In use and visible
  • DeprecateCandidate: Planned for deprecation and no longer in use
  • Hidden: Not visible and possibly planned for deprecation — use with caution

Regularly cleaning up unused customizations is key to both user adoption and overall Org performance. By using this field, you can flag potential candidates for deprecation (and if you check the data owner classification, you'll know who to talk to next) and streamline your Org. 

Strongpoint offers a set of tools and a proposed cadence for safe, effective Org cleanup. With or without data classification enabled, we can help you identify unused customizations and other candidates for deprecation, run impact analysis and route approvals to the appropriate authority. Learn more about our clean up tools here.

Why Use Salesforce's Data Classification Feature?

While many organizations create their own data classification model (learn more about data classification for compliance), starting with Salesforce’s native data classification capabilities can be the perfect baseline for your business. To learn some of the benefits of implementing a proper data classification strategy in Salesforce, read this blog post

This strategy goes beyond improving data organization — from data protection and risk management to improving user productivity, there are multiple benefits to properly categorizing your data. It is an invaluable component of your security strategy that also helps to ease some of the uncertainty around understanding the information in your system.

Data Classification with Strongpoint

Our native data classification app builds on Salesforce's data classification tool to automate the most time-consuming parts of getting it set up and keeping it updated — while still giving you all of the benefits of data classification in your Org.

We start by automatically finding and classifying your sensitive data according to the rules you’ve set out. Then, we give you a suite of tools for managing it — managing user permission levels, automating data subject review/deletion requests, running data cleanup projects, and tracking everything in an audit-ready package.


data-ebookWant to learn more about the specifics of data security in Salesforce?

Download our Salesforce Data Security Checklist for an in-depth understanding of how you can protect your Org — and team — against threats. 


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