The Importance of Digital Hygiene

Digital Privacy: Why We Need Clear Notice & Consent Protocols and Trust Frameworks

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is broadening globally, both the private sector and the public sector have taken action to address its public health impact and to dampen its effect on the quality of life of their citizens and employees. What has been encouraging is how the private and the public sector have been implementing complimentary responses as witnessed, for example, in social distancing policies of governments (e.g., closing schools and postponing events that would generate large crowds of people in close proximity) and businesses (e.g., extending work from home policies and closing their facilities to large meetups). This alignment is outstanding. Even more so if you consider that much of it was done without deliberate and coordinated planning.

Unfortunately, there are always those who will try to take advantage of people when they are vulnerable and suffering in times like these, and it appears this time is no different. One group estimates that victims of COVID-19 related scams in the United Kingdom alone have lost more than $1 million USD in just over a month. There are countless claims of miracle cures that either attempt to separate people from their savings by selling a fake cure, or by driving up their stock price with similar claims. Scammers are phishing and creating fake web sites claiming to have healthcare information or COVID-19 outbreak maps. It has become so bad the World Health Organization had to dispatch a press release warning of phishing scams and sites impersonating them. Other health agencies have taken similar actions.

In their rapid response to this outbreak, some organizations are considering easing their security policies to simplify digital business and accommodate remote workers. However, it is clear that as we focus on our biological hygiene, we cannot lose focus on our digital hygiene. We need to ensure that the people and organizations we transact with are whom they claim to be. We need to be certain they have the qualifications they claim to have. We need to be confident that our privacy is preserved and our personal and financial information is not vulnerable. All of this needs to happen seamlessly and conveniently. This is no small task.

The good news is that there are already a lot of smart people working on these problems. Organizations like the Citizen First Joint Councils and the Digital ID & Authentical Council of Canada (DIACC) are already working to create environments that make digital transactions safe, convenient, and privacy preserving. They have made great progress, and you can help them to advance this important work either by providing feedback during their public comment exercises or by becoming a member and helping them create a better digital future.

So, let’s follow the example of the resilient people of Italy who joined together in song to make their physical world a better place, and let’s join together to make our digital world a better place.

About the author

George Watt is a Partner at Becker-Carroll, a Converge Company, and is responsible for Strategy and Lean Innovation. A transformative leader, George has spearheaded initiatives that have enabled businesses and global enterprises to address complex technology problems, deliver new business benefits, and drive millions of dollars in savings and productivity gains. He has delivered innovations of his own such as a knowledge base for a neural network-based predictive performance management solution, one of the earliest private clouds (2005), and a lightweight event management agent.

As VP of Strategy for a multibillion-dollar technology company, he was responsible for global scientific research, worldwide innovation initiatives, and the design and operation of an innovative startup accelerator program. He has held many national and global leadership positions and has led global teams spanning North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. George is co-author of “The Innovative CIO” and “Lean Entrepreneurship” and tweets as @GeorgeDWatt.