This year Data Protection Day, the 17th of its kind, fell today on a Saturday. Many may think this isn’t a good enough reason to work on a weekend. Why pull out the stops when you work so hard Monday-Friday? How do you even celebrate anyway? – there’s no raising a toast, thanks to Dry January. The dearth of mince pies makes the cold and dark even more miserable.
What is the point?
A colleague asked me what the point of the day was. Technically, it marks the day of the opening signature of the global data protection convention. Typically, it’s a rallying call to educate the public on data protection challenges, including their rights and how to use them – though I am sceptical about how effective this is. He commented this must be an uphill battle. I nodded, thinking how most people still think cookie banners are thrust upon us by GDPR.
His take was a little darker, given the technological and changing working practices we have seen of late. In his mind, he saw members of staff working from home, asking the permanently on-smart home speaker about the weather. They open a book full of passwords (too many to remember) before logging into the laptop with password1234. Why? Because the kids use it for their homework, and it’s easy to remember. An official work email looks important, but they quickly realise it’s spam due to a typo and delete it – nice try, Russia. It’s been a long month; they deserve a treat and a break to browse online. Their partner knows how to circumvent the blocks to shopping sites work have put in place, and they grab a bargain on a random website they’d never heard of. The electrician doing some work to the house seems friendly enough, so there is no need to lock the PC when stopping for lunch; he’ll keep an eye on it. They go back to writing their report but then get distracted by texts from their credit card company…
Data Protection Issues
These are the kinds of issues frequently encountered in data protection. Keeping the public safe at work and home requires supportive education and engagement – in the spirit of Data Protection Day, as we all know. However, it struck me that this is just as important for us as specialists as it is for the public. A Google search for ‘data protection day’ will bring up lists of results, all focusing on bringing people together from companies to the public and the professionals, colleagues near and far. Like the troubled home worker described above, many of us in this field work alone. For us to thrive, we need to find our tribe. As someone who has worked in data protection for several years, I could feel the isolation in the picture being painted and reflected on how our role offers freedom and independence, though it can, at times, be a lonely place. How can we best support others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves?
Therefore, as the world gears up for this year’s educational extravaganza, I would encourage you all to take a moment, or a day if you can, to celebrate data protection day by reaching out. Book that catch-up with a colleague in another department or attend a seminar or conference you’ve not been to before. Reach out to a DPO to discuss that thorny issue you keep putting to the bottom of your to-do list. No one person has all the answers – but there’s always someone out there who’s tackled that issue in the past.
Community is everything
We don’t know what the year ahead will bring; in reality, it will probably be a mixed bag. I can’t seem to turn over my calendar these days without a change to the way regulators enforce data protection – or not. I’m reluctant to mention the slow car crash of the Online Safety Bill. Many of us are also watching the progress of the DP&DI Bill. We are left wondering to what extent it will change how we are protected by and to continue to uphold the things we hold dear (including IG, Records Management and InfoSec). However, whatever the year holds, this community will be learning and growing together – and I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.
Author: Sarah White – Data Protection Officer
Many thanks to Sarah for submitting her piece to RMGirl. Want to submit a guest post? You can. Get in contact here.