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How Organizations Can Improve Their Ethical Handling of Data

Reflecting the old maxim of what you don’t know can, in fact, hurt you, organizations must invest in information governance education and training and punctuate that training with examples of ethical (and unethical) data practices.

This is particularly true in today’s regulatory and media landscape, where compliance with ethical data practices is pivotal for businesses striving to uphold trust and credibility – and where the smallest infraction can draw unwanted press and regulatory attention.

Here are some examples of how information governance best practices can help organizations of all sizes and complexities improve their ethical handling of data across the organization.

Data Ethics Training

Having effective and relatable training that includes instruction on ethical data considerations allows organizations to empower their workforce to comprehend the implications of data-related decisions, ensuring compliance and cultivating a culture of responsible data usage. An example of this type of practice is a bank that implements mandatory training programs that include information on handling sensitive data responsibly and the proper retention of anti-money-laundering records

Data Breach Response Training

Another example is data breach literacy training. For example, a company that experiences a data breach compromising sensitive customer information needs to decide whether to disclose the breach immediately, potentially causing reputational damage, or delay disclosure to investigate and minimize immediate fallout. Organizations that implement a robust incident response plan that includes legally defensible instructions for notification, transparency, and corrective action, ensure that their contractual data breach notifications reflect their current practices, and provide regular (and organization and role-specific) incident training to their employees are more likely to make the right, legally defensible decisions.

Third-Party Data Sharing

Another common ethical issue involves concerns over the use of sensitive data by external partners or supply chain members. Critical information governance best practices include regularly auditing supply chain compliance with data sharing agreements, ensuring that data sharing agreements are reviewed and vetted by all required internal parties (i.e., not just Legal), training personnel on restrictions (and red flags), and regularly monitoring compliance with retention laws, including retention schedule requirements.

In each scenario, IG best practices provide a framework for ethical decision-making, emphasizing clear policies, transparency, accountability, and continuous monitoring mechanisms. These practices contribute to building a culture of trust and responsibility in data management.


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