In today’s digital world, there are countless ways in which your private information can find its way into the wrong hands. Data Privacy Day – which takes place on January 28 – aims to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the privacy of personal information online.
When taking steps to protect your online privacy, don’t overlook documents that transition between paper and digital formats during their lifecycle. In particular, those transition points, such as document scanning and printing, can introduce risk that threatens data privacy.
Documents from employers, banks, vendors and more can include sensitive information such as social security numbers, bank account information and birth dates. Let’s look at three key document stages and some actions that need to be on your “to do” list to mitigate your risk.
Avoid data leakage
Research shows that 73 percent of knowledge workers today have access to scanners and scanning capabilities. But for many organizations, uncontrolled access to network scanning has become a privacy and security nightmare when that information is not controlled or managed effectively.
One way data privacy can be compromised is through documents that have been scanned and distributed by email. This unwanted “data leakage” occurs often when people have uncontrolled access to scanning combined with access to sensitive content.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions to help you safeguard privacy by placing filters within scanning applications to restrict document access. These content filters can be programmed to search for specific words or character strings within scanned documents once they are transformed to searchable format during the scanning process.
For example, content filters could be established to search for terms such as “confidential” or “non-disclosure.” Once terms are identified, you could program the software to take any number of actions, including automatically encrypting the file prior to sending, or perhaps quarantine or delete the file altogether.
Protect against unauthorized access
Most scanned documents are stored as PDF files. These PDF files are potentially more secure than paper documents – if you apply security to them. For instance, you can prevent someone from opening a PDF. Let’s say you want to send a confidential document to a client by email but aren’t sure whether another person may have access to the recipient’s email program. Using PDF software, you can set a document open password to prevent the PDF from being opened without the password; then call the recipient to provide the password.
Another helpful PDF software feature is redaction. Oftentimes, people make the mistake of attempting to cover up private information, like a social security number, by using a drawing markup tool, such as a rectangle with solid fill. That’s a path to redaction failure.
The only secure way to do redaction is with a redaction tool, commonly found in PDF software. These tools don’t just cover up text or images; they replace the selected areas pixel by pixel with redaction fill. Note: you should probably also save a copy of the original PDF for your records as part of your routine workflow.
Don’t let printing be an afterthought
Printing is notoriously overlooked in privacy protection. Due to the non-searchable format of printed documents, they can be difficult to track and dangerous to store. Plus, consider the human error involved; accidentally taking the wrong document from the printer or maliciously distributing copies outside of an organization can be just as damaging as a hacker or malware.
Studies show that 20 percent of all print jobs are never retrieved by the original user. Print management software can prevent exposure of information by holding your print job in a secure print queue until you authorize its output when you are at the printer.
This protected print release allows you to print from anywhere on your network and pick up the documents when and where you want. Not only does this eliminate the risk of sensitive information being left at a printer, but it also promotes sustainable printing practices by reducing paper waste from unclaimed print jobs.
Document privacy should be top of mind for you and your organization. Determining how content is at risk throughout a document’s lifecycle is the first step toward mitigating privacy risks. Once that is established, you can better take steps to prevent data leakage, guard against unauthorized access and protect printing processes, all to safeguard your data privacy.
This post was originally published on the Huffington Post on January 25, 2017.