SecurityBrief NZ - Privacy Week interview: Aura Information Security's Peter Bailey

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Privacy Week interview: Aura Information Security's Peter Bailey

At its heart, Privacy Week is about ensuring that government, business, and consumers ensure they are playing their part in ensuring responsible use of personal data – and businesses are still learning how to play fair.

Aura Information Security is a security firm that's getting into the spirit of Privacy Week, including events at its Wellington and Auckland offices this week.

I spoke to Aura’s general manager Peter Bailey to get his take on Privacy Week, data security, and why privacy is everyone's responsibility.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner & UMR Research released a survey this week, in which 79% of people are concerned about businesses that share their information with other businesses. 

What should those businesses do to reassure customers their data is being used in a responsible way?

Companies that host their users’ data need to make sure the environment their data is hosted in is secure, and they only share information in a secure manner.

That includes having clear policies around how data is stored and shared. You don’t want to get in situations where staff are emailing large spreadsheets full of customer information. 

If your policy is clear and well-implemented then you can assure customers that their information is not going to end up in the wrong place.

For companies that are sharing information with third parties, that they’ve told customers that information will be shared and that customers know what the information will be used for.

When companies share data with third parties, they need to be confident the third parties are going to use the information for the purposes that they have specified, i.e. they’re not going to do something with customer data that’s unexpected.

62% of respondents in the survey said they trust government organisations with their personal data, and 66% are confident about the use, security, and storage of that data.

How could government agencies improve those statistics?

The government has a robust programme in place around ensuring that their applications and environments are secure. There is a lot of mandatory testing and reviews that the government needs to do to ensure that data is properly secured.

On the occasions where there have been breaches and they’ve become public, the government has been swift to ensure that those loopholes are closed.

The programme is a lot more robust than we’ve seen in other countries.

I wonder if it’s a matter of better communication. We see the stuff in the press when things go wrong but we don’t see when the government’s doing things right.

If the population understands what the government’s doing and the programmes in place to ensure their data is well looked after, more consumers may trust government.

Could the same approach work for private organisations?

Private businesses should have a programme in place that’s relevant for the kind of data that they store so they can look after it properly.

The reason people don’t trust private companies is because those companies are not making it clear that they’re secure.

At the moment the industry is still fairly new and there are no clear international standards or branding in place. I’m sure they will come over time, but right now you can’t look at a website for a stamp that says the website has been tested and it’s secure.

There are some things we look for like HTTPS to check if we think they’re secure, but there’s nothing to let us know that a business is secure - and that they’re looking after data properly.

Knowing that a company has been passed and cleared by a central body would give us a much better idea of what they’re doing with customer information.

With the proposed changes and breach notifications in the updated Privacy Act (in addition to other European regulations such as the GDPR), what is one way in which New Zealand businesses need to prepare?

They have to understand what their risk profile is. If they don’t understand it, they can’t fix it.

You have to acknowledge that you may be exposed, and you have to find out what the issues are.

What needs to change about the way we operate, the way our systems run, the way we handle data – setting up that roadmap to make sure you’re secure.

Another point is that a lot of New Zealand companies don’t know about GDPR. They don’t know it’s coming and they don’t know what the impact is for them, and they need to find out.

As long as they’re holding European citizens’ data, they fall under GDPR legislation. They also need to understand what they need to have in place to keep that data safe and secure.  

From a consumer perspective, do you think New Zealanders need to take some personal responsibility in understanding the Privacy Act and the upcoming Privacy Bill?

Yes. At the very least, consumers need to understand that the companies they give their data to have a responsibility to look after it properly.

If businesses don’t look after it, there is a recourse for action. If nothing else, consumers need to know there is legislation there to protect them.

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