As we put 2020 behind us and look forward to 2021, we reflected in an interactive virtual discussion forum on the key IG learnings from the past 12 months and the insights and actions we now need to be taking to make the most of the opportunities and challenges on the road to recovery in 2021.
We’ve seen the different ways governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the results in managing the pandemic. Similarly, organisations have had to adapt to the changes and, in particular, to faster digital transformation. Robust governance of organisations and of information has never been so important. Increased cyber risks and the importance of access to real-time and accurate data for decision-making, both at the board level and throughout the organisation, are now critical issues.
In the world of data privacy, unfortunately trust and confidence in the way that organisations use data was already low leading into 2020. In New Zealand, Privacy Commissioner research showed only 32% of people trusted companies with their data in 2018, while Pew Research Center in the U.S. found that 79% of Americans have concerns about how their data is used, with 81% perceiving the risks of data use outweighing the benefits.Then add to that the events of 2020 which led to unprecedented levels of sharing, collecting and using sensitive personal information due to COVID-19 and contact tracing, working from home and to the need to control and prevent protests and civil unrest.
Our expert panel included InfoGovANZ International Council member Sarah Auva’a who is Lead Digital Trust Partner at Spark New Zealand, where she is responsible for designing privacy, legal compliance and governance strategies and frameworks that enable customer trust. Experience in telecommunications, digital services, data analytics, banking and regulatory sectors has shaped Sarah’s pragmatic and customer driven approach to unlocking the value of data in an ethical way.
- The potential for data sharing to provide benefits to individuals and communities, but also raised questions to consider. Do we share sensitive information about our health status, location and contacts with organisations and governments to help fight COVID-19 and potentially benefit ourselves and others? Do we trust governments to use the information effectively to battle COVID-19 and to keep it safe from potential loss, misuse, or abuse?
- Poorly designed or hastily constructed COVID-19 data collection initiatives (from businesses creating contact registers to organisations attempting to repurpose data sets, such as location data collected for other reasons, to governments failing to consider how contact tracing data may be reused) can not only fail to achieve the desired outcome, but can undermine the confidence of individuals in contact tracing systems more generally.
- Surveillance became a hot topic with employers seeking ways to monitor the performance of millions of people working from home. Invasive surveillance techniques by employers can undermine relationships between employers and employees, and fears of unemployment and a recession helped to subdue employee resistance.
- It’s possible for governments to harvest and repurpose personal information in ways that violate human rights, harm people and drive civil unrest, particularly with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technology.
As we step into 2021, we are more dependent than ever on digital technology and are creating bigger digital footprints. Data sharing will continue to play a key role in mitigating COVID-19. Not only will contact tracing continue to be a focus, but sharing of immunity and vaccination status information, as well as validation of that status, will become hot privacy topics in 2021. Most people accept that data sharing is inevitable, but people are also looking to their government to make it safer. In 2020, 65% of New Zealanders and 75% of U.S. respondents support additional privacy regulation.
Key questions for leaders
• What would it take to rebuild trust in your organisation to enable safe data sharing to benefit us all?
• What do you think governments and regulators need to do to enhance regulatory frameworks to provide individuals with confidence, autonomy, and safeguards to facilitate data sharing?
• How will your organisation showcase compliance with data and privacy regulations and provide stakeholders with confidence that systems work and companies can be trusted?
• What are you doing or not doing that will impact the trust that individuals are willing to place in you going forward?
• How can you further use privacy enhancing technologies to minimise information collection and impact?
Given what’s at stake, 2021 is the year to tackle the question of trust as if our lives depend on it.
You can read the insights from the rest of our expert panel in our InfoGovANZ Key Learnings from 2020 – Action and Insights for 2021 Report. The report was developed from a virtual forum discussing the impact of COVID-19 and IG implications for organisations on data, access to information, trust, transparency and accountability, cybersecurity, global privacy regulatory developments, eDiscovery, ethics and artificial intelligence.
You can also watch the recording of the 28 January 2021 webinar here.