Data & Compliance Dictionary for Real Estate

Data and compliance Dictionary by ility

The emergence of Property Technology (Proptech) has revolutionized the real estate industry, offering new opportunities for efficiency and innovation. However, with these advancements comes the critical responsibility of managing and safeguarding data. While Proptech has made it easier to collect and analyze data for better property management, it has also created a labyrinth of regulations and best practices that professionals need to navigate.

Failing to understand or comply with these regulations can lead to legal repercussions, damage your reputation, and erode customer trust. In contrast, getting it right can enhance operational efficiency and set the foundation for strong customer relationships built on transparency and security. Therefore, understanding the terminologies and guidelines related to data compliance and security has become non-negotiable.

To that end, we've compiled this comprehensive dictionary aimed at demystifying the jargon and complexities in the data compliance landscape. Whether you are a landlord, property manager, or an industry consultant, this dictionary is designed to equip you with the vocabulary and understanding you need to navigate the ever-changing real estate technology ecosystem confidently.



Definition: The process of verifying the identity of a user, application, or system.

In Practice: Authentication mechanisms like passwords, biometric scans, or digital certificates ensure that users are who they claim to be. In real estate technology platforms, strong authentication methods should be used to verify the identities of users accessing sensitive data, such as lease agreements or financial transactions.


Definition: The process of determining what permissions an authenticated user has within a given system.

In Practice: After a user is authenticated, the authorization process decides what data and system functionalities they're allowed to access. For instance, in a building management system, an authenticated maintenance staff member may be authorized to access maintenance schedules but not financial records. Configuring precise authorization levels helps keep data secure and ensures users only have access to the information necessary for their roles.


Definition: The process of removing all personally identifiable information where identification of data can't occur without additional information.

In Practice: When aggregating customer feedback for analytics, anonymization ensures that individual customers can't be identified, thereby protecting their privacy.

Big Data

Definition: Big Data refers to extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

In Practice: In the realm of real estate technology, Big Data can be leveraged for a variety of applications such as predictive maintenance for properties, tenant behavior analytics, and even real-time pricing adjustments. However, the larger the data set, the more rigorous your data governance needs to be, to ensure compliance with privacy laws and secure storage.

Compliance Audit

Definition: An examination to ensure an organization is following external laws, regulations, and company policies.

In Practice: Regularly schedule compliance audits to assess how well your technology vendors are adhering to data privacy and security standards. Make it a practice to request compliance certificates or audit reports from them as part of your due diligence.

Data Breach

Definition: Unauthorized or illegal access to sensitive, protected, or confidential data.

In Practice: If a data breach occurs within a technology platform you use, sensitive customer information such as lease agreements, rent payments, and personal identification could be exposed. This can lead to legal consequences and erode trust between customers and landlords. Consider implementing advanced security features, such as data encryption and two-factor authentication, to minimize the risk.

Data Encryption

Definition: The act of converting data into code to prevent unauthorized access.

In Practice: Using data encryption in your technology stack ensures that even if unauthorized users gain access, they can't read sensitive customer files like lease agreements or financial documents. This not only adds an extra layer of security but also builds trust with your customers, knowing their data is securely handled.

Data Lake

Definition: Large storage repositories that hold raw data in its native format until it is needed, often used for big data and real-time analytics.

In Practice: Data lakes can be used in real estate to store various types of unstructured data like foot traffic patterns in a mall, customer complaints, or energy usage statistics, which can later be analyzed for insights.

Data Minimization

Definition: The practice of limiting data collection to what is directly relevant and necessary for the task at hand.

In Practice: When property managers use technology for customer screening or building management, they should only collect data that is necessary for those purposes to comply with privacy regulations.

Data Retention Policy

Definition: The policy that outlines how long data will be stored and how it will be managed when it is no longer needed.

In Practice: These policies ensure that old customer data is securely deleted and not subject to potential breaches.

Data Sovereignty

Definition: The concept that data is subject to the laws of the country in which it is collected.

In Practice: When using technology solutions that store data in the cloud, real estate companies operating in multiple countries must ensure that the data is stored in accordance with each nation's laws. Check with your cloud provider to confirm where your data is physically stored and adjust your data management policies accordingly to avoid legal complications.

Endpoint Security

Definition: The practice of securing endpoints or entry points of end-user devices such as computers and mobile devices from being exploited by malicious actors.

In Practice: Endpoint security solutions can protect the devices that property managers and real estate agents use to access sensitive customer information, thereby preventing potential breaches.


Definition: A system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network.

In Practice: Firewalls could be employed in building management systems to secure the network that controls various building functionalities like HVAC, security cameras, and access control systems.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

Definition: A regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

In Practice: If you're storing or using data from EU citizens, compliance with GDPR is mandatory. This impacts how you collect, store, and use customer data.

IDS (Intrusion Detection System)

Definition: A device or software application that monitors a network or systems for malicious activities or policy violations.

In Practice: IDS can alert property managers when there are attempts to compromise building security systems or unauthorized access to customer data servers.

Incident Response Plan

Definition: A structured approach detailing the processes to follow when a cybersecurity incident occurs.

In Practice: In the event of a data breach or unauthorized building access, an incident response plan should be activated immediately. This involves tasks like scope identification, system isolation, and timely notification to affected parties. Regularly rehearsing this plan with key personnel across the organization ensures that immediate and effective actions are taken, reducing potential damage.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

Definition: A set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

In Practice: If your real estate operations or technology providers handle online transactions like rent payments or security deposits, adhering to PCI DSS standards is vital. This ensures the secure processing and storage of financial data, which not only reduces the risk of financial fraud but also strengthens trust among all stakeholders.

PII (Personally Identifiable Information)

Definition: Information that can be used independently or in combination with other data to identify an individual. Examples include names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

In Practice: In real estate, PII is often collected during lease signings, application processes, or maintenance requests. Proper handling and secure storage are crucial to comply with privacy regulations and protect customers.


Definition: A data management strategy where personally identifiable information fields are replaced with artificial identifiers or pseudonyms.

In Practice: This allows data to be matched with its source without revealing the actual person, thereby ensuring that customer information is kept confidential.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Definition: A method of restricting system access only to authorized users based on their role within the organization.

In Practice: In real estate technology platforms, Role-Based Access Control ensures that access to customer data, financial information, and other sensitive elements is granted only to those whose roles require it. For instance, a leasing agent may have access to customer applications but not to financial reports, helping to limit the potential for data breaches.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Definition: A security process in which a user provides two different authentication factors to verify their identity, usually a password and a secondary form like a text message or mobile app notification.

In Practice: Implementing 2FA in your real estate technology platforms adds an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access to sensitive information. For example, after entering a password, a user may receive a text with a verification code that they must enter to complete the login process. This simple but effective method significantly reduces the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to systems, thereby enhancing trust and compliance.


Real estate technology and PropTech has unlocked unprecedented efficiencies and conveniences. Yet, this revolution also creates new challenges around data compliance and security that are increasingly non-negotiable. From understanding the intricacies of GDPR and PCI DSS to implementing practical measures like Two-Factor Authentication and Data Encryption, both real estate companies and technology providers must be proactive, vigilant, and informed.

This glossary serves as a foundational guide, but it's important to recognize that the landscape of data compliance and security is continually evolving. With emerging technologies such as IoT-enabled smart buildings and AI-powered analytics, real estate technology is moving fast and staying ahead of the curve is important. In a world increasingly driven by data, safeguarding that data is not merely a regulatory requirement but a cornerstone of a sustainable and trustworthy business.

Nisha Garigarn

Nisha has 8+ years of experience using technology to create delightful customer experiences in real estate. As VP of Solutions, she's helped deploy ility across 60 million sqft of real estate. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.


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