By Frank Rankin
It always seems to be the national or international day of something-or-other. As I write it is (as decreed by the United Nations) International Democracy Day. Coming soon we will have (as decreed by a couple of strange blokes in Oregon) International Talk Like A Pirate Day.
As well as providing useful space-fillers to lazy journalists on slow news days, such commemorations are often used to draw attention to serious (or silly) issues.
And as information governance practitioners, why should we miss out?
There are a few calendar dates which we can possibly exploit in the never-ending task of raising awareness among our managers and co-workers of some of the key messages around FOI, data protection and information security.
I plan to send some communications to my colleagues in the NHS organisation where I work, commemorating International Right to Know Day on 28 September. Initiated by FOI activists from around the world in 2002, the day seeks to celebrate successes in improving government transparency, and highlighting continuing struggles. It provides an excuse for me to gently remind colleagues that they could be the recipient of FOI requests and how they should react. I’ll also remind them of the rights that they have as citizens. (Why not put up some FOI posters Frank? Ed.)
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and 7 February 2017 will be Safer Internet Day. In drawing the attention of colleagues to guidance and resources to help them keep their families safe online, we also build their skills and awareness to improve security in the workplace. On the last Safer Internet Day we took the opportunity to send tips to colleagues on how to protect themselves and their children from phishing, malware and other nasties. It is the first time I have ever received notes of thanks for an information governance awareness programme!
Across Europe, Data Protection Day is marked on 28 January – the anniversary of the signing of the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 for the Protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data, ancestor to the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Although I am sure you all knew that. (Well, Tim Turner probably did.) (Dear reader, it is still relevant despite the Brexit vote.Ed)
While I don’t expect to see MoonPig selling cards for the occasion, again it gives us a hook to hang an awareness message on – perhaps some reminders of appropriate behaviours we expect from staff to protect the personal data we hold, as well as an update on GDPR developments. (Er why not put up some GDPR posters Frank?Ed.)
But Frank, I hear some of you object, aren’t these commemorative dates just a wee bit cheesy? Perhaps. But I am not too proud to borrow any excuse to highlight information governance messages in a way that reminds our people that these issues are universal.
Back in the 1990s, the late Declan Treacy used to champion International Clear Your Desk Day as an opportunity to declutter our work spaces, delivering benefits for ergonomics, mental health and feng shui – as well as for records management and data security. Alas, no-one seems to have picked up the mantle since his death.
So, who is with me? Let’s pick a date and I’ll see you at the confidential waste bin.
Frank Rankin is an information security, FOI and records management expert. Amongst other courses he is currently delivering our Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information (Scotland).