#DataPrivacyDay: Organizations Must Increase Focus on Data Privacy in 2021

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Organizations must be far more focused on data privacy issues this year, according to a panel of experts speaking during the Spirion webinar Customer Data Privacy 2021: It’s No Longer Just Business, It’s Personal.

The panel began by setting out the trends that have pushed data privacy issues to the fore over recent years. These include the growth and fragmentation of data privacy legislation, both in the US and across the world, which has expanded consumer rights, the increased usage of the internet and social media and emergent technologies such as AI and facial recognition. “It’s an incredible time to be in privacy,” noted Jen Mailander, deputy general counsel, data, privacy and cybersecurity, Fannie Mae.

In this landscape, organizations must review their whole data collection process to ensure consumers “own” their privacy, according to Robert Eckman, CISO at Kent State University. “What rights are they giving that data subject as they are collecting it – are they informing them of its legitimate use?” he asked.

Jason Hodgert, product marketing manager, Spirion, agreed, stating that organizations must acknowledge that consumers own their own data, and they are merely “borrowing it,” which means taking extra care. “This requires a fundamental switch in how businesses treat the data they possess,” he commented.

Data privacy issues have also become more important in the context of the digital shift many businesses are undergoing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the move to remote working and growing use of IoT devices. Rebecca Herold, CEO of The Privacy Professor, explained: “When we’re dealing with digital transformation, often privacy and data protection are just forgotten. You’re focused on the digital transformation that you’re dealing with and then dealing with security and privacy later – you can’t do that.” Instead, privacy and security has to be part of any transformation plan from the very beginning, throughout “the full lifecycle.”

Mailander outlined that in many ways the digital shift has provided the perfect opportunity for businesses to implement “privacy by design” when setting up new programs.

While protection of consumer data can sometimes be viewed as something of a burden, the panellists also highlighted how being strong in this area can be turned into a competitive advantage for businesses. Hodgert noted that people are more aware than ever before about the collection and use of their personal data and that it “has a value to the organization.” In an era where people increasingly only choose to invest in organizations they feel share their values, it is vital that there is greater transparency when it comes to data. Hodgert added: “People are going to be paying more attention to what’s being done with that data. It’s not enough that they know companies have it, they want to know who they are sharing it with and why.”

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