Data Privacy Requires a Security Response

GDPR affords EU residents more control over personal information

Recent hacks into databases of some of the world’s biggest corporations and government organizations put the personal information of billions of people at risk. Data intended to remain private is showing up for sale on the internet, privacy has become a worldwide concern, and citizens are losing faith in the way their data is collected, stored and protected.

The European Union took a big step last year to ease its citizen’s concerns with the enaction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). EU residents now have much more control over their personal information. The GDPR requires they know what data is being collected, how it is being used and how they can opt in, not out, of a company’s database.

What constitutes personal data? That’s broadly defined to include just about anything that could be used to identify a person, including name, home and email addresses, birthdate, driver license number, gender, race, political affiliations and much more.

Although the GDPR specifically applies to nations within the EU, it has worldwide implications. Any organization, no matter where it’s based, that collects data gathered from an EU citizen must comply with the regulation. Failure to do so can result in penalties of up to €20 million or 4 percent of a company’s annual global revenue.

The European privacy movement has sparked a worldwide response. In the U.S., more than 10 states have enacted tougher regulations to protect its citizens’ personal data. Perhaps the most GDPR-like will take effect on January 1 in California. Online sites will be required to conspicuously post a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link. Parental consent will be required before selling data about a child under the age of 13.

The security industry was not a prime target of the GDPR, but it will feel an impact in the way organizations collect and use video surveillance and access control data. In the EU, video is considered to be personal data belonging to those captured in live or recorded images. By its nature, access control requires personal information from employees and vendors in return for a pass to enter facilities.

Organizations must have clearly defined goals for its security functions. That means being ready to explain camera placements, what images they expect to capture, and how the video will be used, stored and shared. How video will be shared may be the most critical component.

Strict cybersecurity controls are required to ensure securityrelated data can be viewed only by authorized personnel that may include corporate staff, law enforcement or even a hosted or managed service provider or central monitoring station.

It is obvious passwords protecting data can be hacked. They can also be shared.

Adding a card reader or keypad to a workstation provides a second layer of security. Yet there’s no guarantee the person using the card or entering a Personal Identification Number (PIN) has been authorized to do so.

This is where biometrics can play an important role in securing databases. Passwords, cards and PINs can be hacked, shared or stolen; a biometric identifier cannot. Biometrics offer a way for our industry to meet security goals for the protection of data while also restoring public confidence.

Biometrics involve the measurement of physical characteristics, something only the owner can possess. The most commonly used biometrics include iris patterns, fingerprints and facial recognition. Combining biometric and access readers or a keypad at the PC creates true two-factor authentication. Passwords can be eliminated while the database remains accessible only to authorized users.

The use of biometric technologies is now commonplace worldwide. You see them embedded in smartphones, at border crossings and in use for time and attendance, national ID cards, voter registration and more. Biometric readers can also authenticate consumers registering for websites or making purchases on the internet.

Among the major biometric technologies, iris recognition is widely considered the most accurate. No two people, even identical twins, have the same iris patterns. The technology works with people wearing glasses, contact lenses and safety goggles. It’s not affected by grease, dirt or scars as are fingerprint readers. Iris technology works with very large databases where facial recognition has been shown to be less effective.

GDPR and its goals have arrived with the simple concept that citizens have a right to know the information being collected about them, how it is used and be provided with an easy way to delete their data at any time.

The security industry should see GDPR and efforts at the state level in the U.S. as driving positive changes and eliminating inefficient data protection efforts. At the same time, we need to employ tools readily available to restore citizens’ sense of privacy whether they are completing an online transaction or engaging with a security system. A failure to act now may result in a more severe backlash that could negatively impact how we protect people and their personal data.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Security Today.

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