There’s one area of data protection training which is typically overlooked and yet is central to legal and correct data processing. As we mark National Data Protection Day this week, we explore what it is and how to get it right.
Most organisations have compliance training in place to ensure its people meet the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation. But there’s one aspect of this important training which is typically overlooked and that is data accuracy skills development.
Accuracy is one of the seven principles of the General Data Protection Regulation, which are described on the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office. The regulation requires data to be stored accurately and to be updated as necessary. Yet few organisations realise that accuracy is a skill that can be learned and measurably improved. It needs to be part of GDPR training.
It’s easy to inadvertently breach GDPR rules by not paying attention to detail and making mistakes.
Serious failures of compliance can occur when data is accidentally included in a communication, and when data is incorrectly recorded.
Unintended sharing of data is one example of a data breach which can take various forms. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve received ‘notification’ type emails with dozens of recipients’ email addresses included for all to see in the ‘to’ field, instead of hidden in the BCC field. And at Scott Bradbury we quite regularly receive emails which weren’t intended for us at all – sometimes revealing very confidential information. All because the sender clicked the wrong ‘Angie’ or ‘Alice’ from the list of email addresses that unhelpfully popped up.
And it’s not just sharing data which is a problem. Recording details incorrectly can result in the wrong people being contacted, or a data subject’s personal information being erroneously associated with another person’s record, potentially causing the incorrect - and illegal - disclosure of medical, legal or financial details to a third party.
Medical, legal and financial sector organisations need to be especially careful, since the personal data they process is particularly sensitive. When you are using professional services it’s alarming to find mistakes in crucial information. For example, when buying a new house, I noticed that the postcode of the new property was recorded incorrectly at the Land Registry, and I have had several experiences with law firms where the solicitor or paralegal made mistakes. On one occasion, the legal instruction described in the letter I received from my solicitor named a completely different client, which suggested that my own instruction had been sent to another person. Mixing up information and confusing processes is just as dangerous as errors in the data. And it has serious data protection repercussions.
Mistakes in emails and other written communication have the potential to cause not only misunderstandings and lost time, but also serious legal repercussions. If dates, names, amounts and other essential data are wrong in any written communication, organisations may incur fines, reputational damage and other penalties.
When people are feeling stressed and, as with the current Covid-19 crisis, having to work differently and under pressure, it’s easy for people to make mistakes. Our concentration suffers when we’re distracted and accuracy requires our full attention. That’s why accuracy skills training, which equips people with practical techniques for reading, checking and transferring data is so important. There are ways to boost concentration, verify details accurately and process data both quickly and accurately. And everyone can learn how to raise their ‘present-mindedness’ so they are alert to the possibility of error and know how to prevent mistakes.
As we are reminded to revisit our data protection procedures on National Data Protection Day this year, consider how you are ensuring the accuracy of your data processing. Think how introducing training in this key skill will not only ensure compliance with the accuracy principle of GDPR but also save money and improve your operational efficiency.
Developing an Eye for Accuracy is Scott Bradbury’s virtual workshop covering all the essentials of accurate data processing. It includes assessments to measure the participants’ improvement in data accuracy.
Accurate Written Communication is Scott Bradbury’s virtual workshop covering all aspects of accuracy in relation to printed and electronic documents. It includes assessments to measure the participants’ improvement in written accuracy.
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