Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Privacy breaches, workplace safety should have same priority

10 February 2014

Privacy breaches should have same priority as workplace safety

Barely a month goes by when privacy breaches – by mostly government agencies like ACC, the Earthquake Commission and DHBs – aren’t in the headlines, but the gap is unlikely to be plugged so long as decision makers look to technology for the whole solution.

Chief Executive of New Zealand IT consulting and software development company Designertech, Ray Delany, said today that headlines like ‘ACC privacy breach probed’, ‘DHB acts to protect patient privacy’ and ‘IT policies threaten pupils' privacy’ may actually be prevented with low tech human solutions.

Mr Delany said part of the problem is that the overwhelming focus of IT is on efficiency even when, in some cases, efficiency is not necessarily a good thing.

“Most of the privacy breaches have been very kitchen sink level from an IT perspective. For example, somebody sends an email somewhere they shouldn’t. That’s the equivalent of turning on the wrong switch at the kitchen stove.

“More often than not, organisations think of technology in terms of how to improve efficiencies and increase productivity, when they might be better served by an understanding of their own priorities. For example, when client privacy is more important than efficiency.”

Mr Delany said three factors are critical to safeguarding client privacy:

• The culture of the organisation
• IT governance and policies
• Technology based checks and balances

“In terms of the culture of an organisation, we regularly encounter a fairly recent set of naïve beliefs that people hold, such as the perception that all email is miraculously private. It’s one thing to do something deliberately, but in most instances people are doing things without having the faintest idea that it is a risk.”

A review by Government chief information officer Colin MacDonald released last year found that 73 per cent of agencies did not have formal security standards and procedures in place.

“Don’t for one moment think it is only Government that has this problem – it’s just as widespread in the private sector. Technology is evolving so fast and people are working under increasing time pressures and workloads, so it’s inevitable that privacy breaches will continue.

Suggested solutions
“A good governance structure is critical, but so is having those policies and procedures deeply embedded in the thinking people and their workplaces, particularly where an organisation is used to shifting large quantities of data around on email.”

Mr Delany said one solution is to learn from the workplace safety industry.

“For example, simple signage and education programmes similar to those used by workplace safety officers can help change thinking about privacy.

“What is certain is that the overall governance of information management and strategy should no longer be neglected or relegated behind productivity because it is perceived as a cost rather than a profit activity.

“Companies and government organisations are learning the painful lesson that focusing on the human element is as much IT related as hardware, and also the more cost effective approach. Training people is cheaper than spending half a million on IT infrastructure,” he said.

Technology solutions that may be implemented are by no means fool proof, but can be designed to work in sync with human behaviour.

For example, some organisations could consider configuring rules into the IT system that prohibit the attachment of certain types of files to emails, as well as specifying certain file types or instituting a ten minute delay before an email goes.

“It is not difficult to come up with easy and cost effective solutions that force people to think before they act, or which undo actions before any consequence or errors occur. Knowing that, there is no excuse for privacy breaches,” he said.

About Designertech
Designertech is an innovative and successful IT support, product development and consulting company with specific emphasis on business outcomes based on strong relationships between people, technology and systems in order to provide tailored solutions that meet the unique needs of clients.

Through its core philosophy of finding ways for people and machines to work better together, Designertech has enjoyed excellent results with products like MailMarshall and also productive relationships with iconic New Zealand success stories such as Mainfreight, Plunket and Tegel.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Internet: NZ Govt Lifts Target Speeds For Rural Broadband

The government has lifted its expectations on faster broadband speeds for rural New Zealand as it targets increased spending on research and development in the country's information and communications technology sector, which it sees as a key driver for export growth. More>>


Banks: Westpac Keeps Core Government Transactions Contract

The local arm of Westpac Banking Corp has kept its contract with the New Zealand government to provide core transactions, but will have to share peripheral services with its rivals. More>>


Science Investment Plan: Universities Welcome Statement

Universities New Zealand has welcomed the National Statement of Science Investment released by the Government today... this is a critical document as it sets out the Government’s ten-year strategic direction that will guide future investment in New Zealand’s science system. More>>


Scouring: Cavalier Merger Would Extract 'Monopoly Rents' - Godfrey Hirst

A merger of Cavalier Wool Holdings and New Zealand Wool Services International's two wool scouring operations would create a monopoly, says carpet maker Godfrey Hirst. The Commerce Commission on Friday released its second draft determination on the merger, maintaining its view that the public benefits would outweigh the loss of competition. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: She Means Business

As Foreman says in her conclusion, this is a business book. It opens with a brief biographical section followed by a collection of interesting tips for entrepreneurs... More>>


Hourly Wage Gap Grows: Gender Pay Gap Still Fixed At Fourteen Percent

“The totally unchanged pay gap is a slap in the face for women, families and the economy,” says Coalition spokesperson, Angela McLeod. Even worse, Māori and Pacific women face an outrageous pay gap of 28% and 33% when compared with the pay packets of Pākehā men. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news