Employees, contractors, and vendors have unparalleled access to company data, requiring careful adherence to data privacy best practices to secure personal information.
Unfortunately, many employees are either unaware of these practices or are unwilling (or forgetful) to regularly implement them into their workflows. According to one survey on workplace data management habits, nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated that they “adhere to workplace security policies” while everyone else “didn’t feel that anyone cared if those policies were followed. Meanwhile, many others felt that it was someone else’s responsibility to ensure their implementation.
As a result, data privacy failures are as likely to arise from hacking attempts as they are from internal accidents. In a survey on privacy compliance, 70 percent of IT leaders acknowledged an accidental internal data breach in the past year, and as many as 90 percent of cloud data breaches are incited by human error.
In today’s digital-first, hybrid work environment, raising privacy awareness is critical to protecting customer loyalty, maintaining regulatory compliance and securing IT infrastructure.
Rather than presuming that team members are ready to protect data privacy, deploy best practices to empower all team members to make data privacy a consistent operational reality.
How Leaders Can Raise Privacy Awareness
#1 Teach & Train
For most employees, data privacy isn’t top-of-mind as they tackle their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, making intentional teaching and training a critical component of increased privacy awareness.
First, workers need to know what they are protecting. The US Department of Labor defines personally identifiable information (PII) as information that directly identifies an individual, including names, social security numbers, identifying codes, telephone numbers, email addresses, and more. In addition, indirect identification, metrics that can be combined to create personal data profiles, include gender, race, date of birth, geographic indicator, and other related data.
At the same time, leaders need to establish the importance of protecting privacy. Teach Privacy, an organization that helps companies promote privacy awareness in the workplace, encourages leaders to address five issues:
- Why should people care about privacy?
- Why is privacy valued by the organization?
- What are the consequences of failures to protect privacy to customers, clients and colleagues?
- What are the consequences to the organization?
- What are the consequences to the individual(s) involved in the failure.
Effective privacy training will accommodate the needs and expectations of the organization. However, it should be regular, comprehensive, and actionable, empowering employees to support data privacy initiatives.
Therefore, actively and routinely train employees in privacy best practices and the latest privacy threats. For example, phishing scams are an increasingly complex and pernicious threat to data privacy. Performing active, real-world phishing scam awareness training can empower all employees to identify, report, and delete these malicious messages.
Privacy training can take many forms. Some leaders may want to gamify training efforts, holding contests or competitions that enforce best practices. Meanwhile, others may be more educational, providing written or presented resources to help workers grow.
Ultimately, leaders need to decide what privacy practices matter most for their business, and they must communicate standards effectively. By investing in teaching and training efforts, leaders can turn their teams into defensive assets ready to protect data privacy.
#2 Implement Accountability
Data privacy has to be an all-in practice, requiring employees at every level to do their part to keep data secure. After implementing an effective communications strategy, hold all team members accountable for adhering to these standards, regardless of work location, status, or reputation.
Employee monitoring makes that process simple, allowing companies to set granular data access privileges, assess data management practices, and maintain privacy standards. Armed with these valuable insights, leaders can target training and accountability measures to specific employees, establishing a growth mindset that keeps data privacy top-of-mind and for managers and their teams.
What’s more, employee monitoring provides risk management assessments, identifying high risk users and responding accordingly to restrict data access, movement, or exfiltration. By combining accountability, oversight, and training, leaders can create awareness without undermining data privacy.
#3 Assess & Repeat
The threat landscape is continually evolving and employee trends are not fixed. As new data collection practices and privacy standards emerge, your awareness practices must pivot accordingly.
Simply put, raising privacy awareness isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing priority that must continually be top-of-mind for all team members.
To that end, data derived from employee monitoring initiatives can help IT professionals and team leaders identify shifting trends and responding to emerging risks. This data-driven privacy approach ensures that teams continue to mature by responding to today’s threats and tomorrow’s vulnerabilities.
Last year’s annual Data Privacy Day was focused on awareness, promoting individual and corporate responsibility data privacy. As leaders increasingly consider these categories to be a top priority, they need to empower their teams to take action.
Leaders are increasingly aware of these risks, rightly viewing data privacy as a bottom-line issue with significant implications for their organizations. Now, they need to increase the awareness and capability among their teams. Given the immense threat facing businesses in a post-pandemic landscape, now is the right time to start that process.