When Saving Lives Infringes on Personal Privacy

Here are some ways organizations can balance the fine line between protecting their people and protecting personal data.

The use of emergency messaging systems has risen in recent years with such common use cases as severe weather alerts and COVID-19 updates, along with preventative measures leveraging new artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These innovations are extremely valuable but, like every other industry catapulted forward by technology, a familiar concern arises — privacy.

AI and data science have the ability to infer a lot of information based on people’s actions. Regulations, such as CCPA and GDPR, require organizations to disclose how the data collected will be used. Even so, while these technologies are designed to help people, they can still raise privacy concerns. The question is where does public safety cross the line of becoming a privacy issue?

Here are some ways organizations can balance the fine line between protecting their people and protecting personal data:

1. Implement an “Opt-In” Notification System

Whenever anyone offers up some sort of personal information, there is a sense of empowerment that comes with knowing they chose to opt-in on their own terms. By asking users to self-register for an emergency notification system, organizations put the user management responsibilities in their hands, which also results in less time and IT resources for set-up and maintenance over the lifespan of the mass alert system.

A potential hurdle to an opt-in system is that it generally results in lower subscriber levels, at least initially. With this in mind, organizations may need to spend time upfront to promote the emergency mass notification system to their community. With that said, as time passes and the mass notification software’s benefits become more apparent, this concern becomes less of a factor.  Click here to read more about Opt-In vs. Opt-Out.

2. Make Location Sharing Voluntary

Similar to implementing an opt-in emergency communication system, the sharing of location should be voluntary. Many people are understandably hesitant to share their location data, as it conjures up images of “Big Brother” surveillance, but they may be more willing to do so when they understand how useful it can be in a dangerous situation.

Emergency notification apps that ask for private information, such as location, can lead to user concerns and discourage installs. In fact, estimates suggest that only 7% actually download the safety apps and only 10% of those users enable location services.

Click here to continue learning how to overcome these obstacles

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