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Survey Says: IT Leaders on Their Biggest Data Privacy Challenges

The Center for Digital Government recently asked state and local technology leaders about the current state of privacy programs. The results? There's a disconnect between organizational practices and public expectations.

Data Privacy
As the Internet and connectivity evolved, so too did the concept of digital privacy. Digital privacy has moved to the need to ensure that constituents have a say in how their data are used and distributed. This has driven the resolve for robust identity management which not only includes usernames and passwords but now is accelerating the adoption of multi-factor authentication across government agencies. While these technologies are not new concepts and the regulations around digital privacy continue to change, it is imperative that government IT organizations prioritize creating, adopting, and deploying a robust digital privacy plan.

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) recently wrote a detailed article, “Digital Privacy: A Primer for Government," which covers key challenges, the development of a digital privacy plan, and thought leadership on what to expect moving forward.

As part of the curation process, we surveyed state and local government leaders on digital privacy and the current state of privacy programs. The results indicated a disconnect between organizational practices and public expectations.

Here are some key findings from our survey:
  • Efforts to address digital privacy are in the nascent stages. Concerns are largely handled on a case-by-case basis, versus within an established privacy program or framework.
  • State and local legislation is still the driving force, and data protection/data breaches was the most significant digital privacy challenge identified, indicating a primary focus on the negative ramifications of data breaches.
  • Privacy/data protection initiatives being considered or underway include data governance, analytics/data-driven government, open data, and establishing formal privacy policies and programs.

While a number of states have enacted privacy legislation or introduced bills, and several have established Chief Privacy Officer positions, leading organizations will seize this opportunity to take meaningful action through formal data governance and privacy programs.

For this article, we will focus on an important aspect of digital privacy: data governance and protection.

Data Governance
A digital privacy plan should include policies, procedures, and technologies that can help you work through these issues.

For example, CDG is currently working with Departments of Transportation (DOT) across the country. During the recent pandemic efforts, many DOTs were asked to compile registered vehicles for their respective departments of health. Challenges with data integrity during input arose, forcing many agencies to deploy data entry technologies. Another challenge was to ensure that only pertinent data was gathered and shared. Make sure to verify what information is crucial in order to only share what is needed.

Data Protection
Having processes and policies in place to properly handle data at all stages will ensure a successful data privacy program. Data must be protected as it's entered, transported, stored, accessed, and changed.

You may have implemented a robust data privacy plan, but how do you verify the same for those departments and agencies with whom you are sharing the data? One strategy to help limit exposure is to limit the amount of data shared to only that which is required for the task at hand.

Data Privacy Plan
Creating a data privacy plan is a large piece of the puzzle, but it's only one piece. Having data governance councils, change management procedures, defined policies, and defined data gathering procedures are also essential components of a successful data privacy plan for your government agency. Creating a culture of data privacy is a significant shift that needs to be designed, constructed, and maintained with long-term strategic planning in place. It is also not a one-size-fits-all undertaking.

A current strategy being used by many government agencies is to take a bite-sized approach and begin with asset data. Then, once you build the framework around that initiative, use it as a blueprint for the next bite.

The Center for Digital Government is focused on understanding these challenges and guiding your government technology agencies. We encourage you to continue to participate in our events and surveys to share accomplishments, successes, and challenges. The Government Experience Awards will launch any day now and the Digital Cities Survey is set to launch this summer.

Each Friday, CDG will also have office hours to talk about issues or give guidance about any of our ongoing surveys, or whatever your needs are. The office hours link can be found in our States Survey FAQ.

Another opportunity is the ability to engage with CDG on thought leadership and best practices through our packed calendar of live and virtual events. Check out our events page for more details on upcoming opportunities. We look forward to seeing you there!