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Coronavirus, Privacy, and Some Teachable Moments

There is a lot going on right now in the world, however, everyone is focused on one thing and that is coronavirus. Oddly enough, or more likely because I have slowly allowed privacy to take over my life, there are some great lessons to pull from this with regards to privacy. Whether it is discussing who is sick, how to continue getting work done, or communication, all of it can be related back to privacy.

Traffic on the Information Super-Highway

One of the first discussions that came up in my office was whether people were going to come into work. It is a pretty logical step to take if you are worried about infection. If you are worried, you can work from home and avoid what could be avoidable risks of contact with the general public. So if you allow telecommuting, how are you controlling access, allowing use of company information from remote workers.

It was something of an exception previously but based on the current situation it may now be the rule. As a privacy professional, you will need to make decisions around who can access information, what information they can access, and how it is done. Most online platforms will ease this as they already have all that infrastructure in place, but then you need to take other considerations in place for additional tools. One Reddit user was caught playing games during work hours because his company starting using Discord, a free voice, and text chat application, to allow for remote work due to the virus. Discord also displays what games you are playing currently, which resulted in that person having an awkward conversation with their boss for sure. This raises other questions, such as what protections you need employees to have on their PCs, such as anti-virus or monitoring software.

Need-to-Know Basis

One rather hot topic has been the CPAC gathering that the President and several other high-profile individuals attended. The main story has been a single individual infected with Coronavirus having possibly infected hundreds of conference-goers. A large proportion of attendees are now in a uproar, wanting to know who was sick, unmasking them to the public potentially. This is mostly because the higher-profile attendees, such as the President, were allegedly told who it was.

I have said it before and will say it again, if collecting data doesn’t do anything then you shouldn’t collect it. In this case, if using the data does nothing you shouldn’t use it. Knowing this person’s name does nothing to help those affected and I would argue that telling some people sets a precedent that everyone should. Everyone should have been told that they were potentially affected, but the name of the person does nothing to change the situation. In this case, it may have only endangered that individual with potential retribution from angry conference goers.

Best of a Bad Situation

Here at Privacy Ref, we were also affected. Many of our classes have been rescheduled or canceled outright because many potential students do not wish to travel. We were faced with a conundrum. How do we move forward considering everything currently going on? Well, with Summit being canceled and classes being less likely to happen, we had to make the move to a new platform for training. We are now offering training online so that anyone can attend, even if they are quarantined in an apartment on the other side of the country.

Many businesses are doing the same. Discord, the chat app from earlier, has started offering free voice chat for up to 50 people to better facilitate remote learning for schools for example. This is a great way to show some empathy for those around you, but also generate some great PR for your company. Finding different ways to deliver services or products can open new markets and provide customers with the flexibility they needed to make that purchase. Over the next year, we are going to see a lot of interesting things happening in response to the situation at hand. However, just remember to be safe and keep calm. Also, please wash your hands.

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