Privacy vs. Safety: Legal Obligations and Best Practices

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Posted: 13th September 2023 by
Lawyer Monthly
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Legal professionals have a responsibility to protect their clients, their client’s data and their colleagues from both physical and cybersecurity threats.

However, with recently published data revealing almost 30% of organizations saw a rise in physical security threats in 2022, and cyber attacks increasing by 38% globally during the same year, improving security can be challenging. 

Lawyers, legal professionals and internal security teams must also consider the impact of digital transformation on existing security and data privacy measures. As more organizations continue to explore the use of smart technologies, AI tools and similarly advanced hardware and software systems, best practices must be updated to ensure all sensitive assets and data remain secure.

For teams to appropriately bolster existing physical and cybersecurity policies, as well as ensure that all confidential information is suitably protected from potential threats, professionals must understand the relationship between privacy and safety in terms of wider security best practices. 

Read on to discover more about privacy vs. safety including legal obligations and best practices.

Examining the difference between privacy and safety

Though both privacy and safety do overlap in many aspects, these terms typically refer to two distinct undertakings. Privacy measures generally govern how personal information is permitted to be accessed and viewed, including how data is stored and what that data can be used for, while safety/security refers to the systems and policies used to protect people/assets from harm.

How privacy is defined

The legal definition of privacy concerns the right of a person to be free from both intrusion into and publicity concerning matters of a personal nature. In the modern world, this includes the right for individuals to have full control over how their personal information is collected, stored and used by relevant organizations, meaning teams must be transparent regarding data privacy.  

Legal professionals are obligated to inform clients of what forms of personal data they intend to collect, including identifiable information such as social security numbers and financial records, as well as any images and videos that may be collected by on-site video surveillance systems. Internal communications containing identifiable client information must also be suitably secured.

How safety is defined

Safety and security involve the specific systems and measures deployed by teams to protect people and assets from threats, generally referring to both cybersecurity and physical security systems. This includes on-site hardware like commercial security cameras and access control security systems, as well as cybersecurity software such as user authentication and encryption systems.

Security teams working within the legal profession have a duty of care to protect employees and clients from physical threats using well-implemented security tools, alongside ensuring all digital information is protected from data breaches. The deployment of these technologies will typically overlap with data privacy measures to make sure collected information is appropriately handled.

Information privacy and safety compliance laws

To assist legal professionals and security staff in developing effective data privacy and security policies, there are several laws and regulations outlining how organizations should operate.

Examples of these regulations include:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  • Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA)
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
  • Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA)

There are numerous state and federal privacy, safety and security laws applicable to specific industries, such as the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), meaning security personnel and legal professionals must do their due diligence when ensuring compliance within different sectors.

Employees have the right to sue in the event of any breach of their data privacy, including both material damage and non-material damage.

Privacy and security best practices

Modern organizations and institutions must follow a variety of trusted best practices to ensure compliance with existing regulations, and to protect clients from multi-faceted threats. Below is a selection of policies and technologies teams should consider when strengthening security plans.

Cybersecurity best practises

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) - Access to private data should be secured behind multiple unique credentials, alongside strong passwords, systems should be designed to require a one-time access code or biometric information before access is granted
  • End-to-end encryption - All communications and data transfers should be obscured from cyber criminals using end-to-end encryption, This ensures all digital information remains unreadable to anyone who does not possess an applicable decoding key
  • Social engineering training - Social engineering is involved in as many as 90% of modern data breaches, whereby authorized users are tricked into sharing private data with malicious actors, All staff and clients must be trained to spot and avoid these attacks
  • Firewalls and antivirus software - Deploying frequently updated firewalls and antivirus software helps to ensure that only authorized traffic can access private networks, while also acting to identify and remove potential malware and ransomware programs

Physical security best practices

  • Access control - Property access must be secured using managed access control systems, whereby authorized individuals are issued unique credentials governing which locations they’re able to enter, with live access logs helping to improve threat detection
  • Video Security - Commercial security cameras should be deployed to provide security staff with a way to visualize potential threats, Cloud-based systems that can be accessed remotely may improve security by allowing teams to view live feeds at any time
  • AI video analytics - Security cameras can be optimized using AI analytics software designed to autonomously detect potential threats, however, the use of this technology may be restricted in some cases depending on industry-specific privacy regulations
  • Management systems - Installed security devices should be integrated into a wider management system, allowing teams to view potential threats holistically, Cloud-based systems may be prioritized so that admins can access and adjust devices remotely

Summary

Organizations have a responsibility to protect people and private information from external threats, though doing so can be challenging in the modern world. But by understanding the relationship between privacy and safety, and ensuring compliance with industry-specific regulations, professionals can act to strengthen security policies and protect people from harm.

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