Power BI and Data Security – Data Classification and Privacy Levels

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As Power BI becomes more prevalent in data analytics and visualization within the enterprise, data security becomes a significant concern. Power BI at its best is deployed to the Power BI service hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform. Every enterprise should understand the level of security available with their data. Companies who have made the leap to cloud technologies such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce, and Microsoft Office 365 should have an understanding of the data compliance and security capabilities of those solutions. However, companies who want to take advantage of Power BI but have just started their cloud journey or are cloud adverse need to know the nuances of Power BI and security.

I have been involved with data and cloud security questions a lot of the past few years. With Power BI’s rise in significance, I have had to answer more specific questions about the service. In order to provide proper guidance and not have a reference for myself, I am putting together a short series of posts on various data security items in Power BI. The topics included enterprise gateway, privacy levels, data classification, and compliance. The focus of these articles are related to using the Power BI service as this is the cloud implementation of Power BI. The desktop has setting which impact deployment of assets, but is not the focus of this series.

The Power BI service is updated frequently. These articles were created based on the Power BI implementation in early April 2017. You may find improvements and changes that impact your experience that are based on newer releases. Feel free to add comments to highlight changes.

The following items are part of the series because they imply additional levels of data security. In order to help alleviate confusion on the implementation and use of data classification and privacy levels I have included them in the conversation.

Power BI Data Classification

Data classification is a method available in Power BI which allows users to tag dashboards to alert consumers of the data to sensitivity in the data. Data classifications are enabled and configured at the tenant level. Once established, a visible tag will be present on dashboards.

PBI Data Classification

Data classification is not a data security implementation. Data classification is only a tag for dashboards and can only be applied on the service not on Power BI Desktop. If you plan to implement this feature you need to have matching policies and practices to support its use.

Power BI Privacy Levels

Power BI Privacy Levels “specify an isolation level that defines the degree that one data source will be isolated from other data sources”. After working through some testing scenarios and trying to discover the real impact to data security, I was unable to effectively show how this might have any bearing on data security in Power BI. During one test was I shown a warning about using data from a website with data I had marked Organizational and Private. In all cases, I was able to merge the data in the query and in the relationships with no warning or filtering. All of the documentation makes the same statement and most bloggers are restating what is found in the Power BI documentation as were not helpful. My takeaway after reviewing this for a significant amount of time is to not consider these settings when evaluating data security in Power BI. I welcome comments or additional references which actually demonstrate how this isolation actually works in practice. In most cases, we are using organizational data within our Power BI solutions and will not be impacted by this setting and my find improved performance when disabling it.

Here is the only instance where I was prompted about privacy levels while working with this. After marking it “public” I proceeded to merge the data with a private connection. You may have a different experience that what I have and I would welcome comments to further the discussion on this topic.

Privacy Level Setting Dialog.PNG

References

Dashboard Data Classification

Power BI Desktop Privacy Levels

Power Query (Excel) Privacy Level Settings

Power BI Community Response on Privacy Levels

March 2016 Power BI Desktop Update – Search for Privacy Level

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