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Data Privacy

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Trung Nguyen

CEO @CyStack|May 24, 2023

Data Privacy in the Workplace: Balancing Employee Privacy and Business Needs

Image by VideoFlow on Shutterstock

No employee wants to work a job where they feel like all their activities are monitored by a  “big brother.”  But sadly, the increasing amount of data collected and stored by businesses has made maintaining employee privacy a complex and almost impossible task.

While regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protect  personal information , businesses also have some legal right to monitor employees. For instance, businesses can monitor communications across company networks and systems to ensure productivity and reduce employee misconduct and human resource wastages.

This creates a challenge in balancing the business’s need for data access and usage with employee data privacy and security. How, then, could you balance employee privacy and business needs?

This article provides practical tips on how businesses can balance employee privacy and business needs.

Tips for Balancing Employee Privacy and Business Needs

Balancing employee privacy and business needs requires proactive approaches. Here are six effective tips to follow:

1. Create and Implement Clear Data Privacy Policies

Issue a comprehensive company-wide data privacy policy that clearly outlines what data you can access as an employer and how it may be used. Be transparent about the information processed through work computers or the company’s internet.

But remember, obtaining clear and informed consent from employees is key before enforcing any policy. Empower your employees with knowledge about their data and give them options, such as using their private internet for personal communication.

With a robust data privacy policy, you can ensure that your employees are well-informed and confident about sharing their data with your business.

2. Employee Training on Data Privacy

Ensuring employees are well-informed about data privacy is crucial in balancing employee privacy and business needs.

Conduct regular training sessions or workshops to educate employees about the company’s data privacy policies, the types of data that may be collected, and how that data may be used. Provide practical examples and scenarios to help employees understand the importance of protecting their and the company’s data.

Expose employees to how  social engineering attacks  work and how they can avoid falling victim to them. This way, the business and employees would be equally invested in maintaining data privacy. You should also encourage open discussions and questions to foster a culture of employee privacy awareness.

For healthcare organizations, employee training is taken a step further. With sensitive patient information constantly being collected, stored, and shared, the healthcare industry endures the most cyber threats and attacks.

Not only that, covered entities must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a federal law regulating and protecting patient health information.  HIPAA violations  are costly, and one of the most common includes failing to provide security awareness training.

Healthcare organizations must implement regular training on HIPAA compliance and cybersecurity practices. Discussing common issues and topics of interest, such as  HIPAA-compliant email providers  and how to properly dispose of sensitive patient information, can be the difference between a violation and compliance.

3. Limit Access to Employee Data Per Regulatory Provisions

Business owners and employers can legally monitor the websites employees visit and their email and social media activities to track productivity and misconduct and identify waste in human resources, but regulations only allow this to an extent.

For example, in California, employers can legally monitor employees’ social media accounts but can’t ask them to turn in passwords to their private/personal accounts. Ensure that you only collect employee data to the extent permitted by law.

4. Implement Security Measures to Protect Employee Data

Protecting employee data should be a top priority for any business. Implement robust security measures, such as firewalls,  encryption , and multi-factor authentication, to safeguard employee data from unauthorized access.

Regularly update software and systems with the latest security patches and conduct vulnerability assessments to identify and address potential security risks. Communicate the importance of data security to employees and guide best practices, such as using  strong passwords  and avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown attachments.

5. Identify Vulnerabilities and Weaknesses in Data Privacy Measures

Staying proactive in identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in data privacy measures is crucial to maintaining robust data protection. Regularly assess and review data privacy measures to identify potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses that malicious actors could exploit.

Identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in data privacy measures may include using  penetration testing tools  to search for vulnerabilities in your data privacy measures automatically. When these vulnerabilities are found, address them quickly to prevent potential data breaches or privacy incidents.

Also, encourage employees to report any suspicious activities or potential security risks further to strengthen the overall data privacy posture of the organization.

6. Implement Additional Measures to Ensure the Data Privacy of Remote Workers

Gartner study  revealed that 82% of employers are open to remote working, raising new privacy concerns for businesses and employees alike. Some businesses use remote control software to record online meetings and how much employees text on their keyboards, and some can even access employee webcams.

subject matter expert  disclosed that it’s not a matter of how much data employers can collect but if they will collect this data – because they can. But how much of this is legal? Where should businesses draw the line regarding employee privacy in remote work?

Limit the data you collect to what is necessary for work-related purposes only. Also, avoid excessive monitoring of remote employees, such as constant video surveillance or screen recording, as it can invade their privacy and erode trust.

However, suppose you have to use extra surveillance applications, you should communicate these with employees, and they, too, should give you consent to continue monitoring them for work purposes.

How Locker Can Help You Maintain Workplace Data Privacy

Balancing employee privacy and business needs can be complex. While businesses have legal rights to monitor employee activities, it is equally essential to ensure the privacy and security of employee data.

Strong passwords are key in maintaining data privacy in the workplace and are usually the first line of defense against unauthorized access to sensitive data. Thus, implementing a robust password management solution like Locker can help you store passwords securely and enable the secure sharing of passwords among authorized personnel.

Locker protects all data with a military-grade AES-256 encryption system, ensuring maximum password and data security.  Download the Locker app today to get started.

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