6 Steps to Ensure Data Security While Increasing Your Civic Engagement Online

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes. Transparent, accurate and timely communication is the foundation for building trust between a government and its citizens through the ages. While these elements have always remained the same, the tools and methods to actively engage communities have undergone a significant evolution.

Citizens today have a voracious appetite for easily available, up-to-date information. A global WPP survey of over 40 countries identified that if citizens are not satisfied with the information received from their government, they rapidly turn to other sources. The rise in social media platforms now means that citizens increasingly demand that their individual voices be heard. They prefer viewing and sharing information about their communities and issues that affect them, and participating online in active discussions versus passively absorbing messages from their government.

Communication specialists connecting federal or local governments with their citizens to participate in meaningful discussions realize that to manage their communications effectively, they will need to engage their customers across several channels. This includes numerous social media platforms, their organization’s website, conducting panel meetings with experts and providing a forum to track and discuss projects with a targeted and relevant audience.

Relying on popular social media portals alone to reach your audience is not ideal, as it presents its own set of hurdles to overcome. Online social media platforms are fragmented – your target demographic may absorb information through different channels and other sources may provide inaccurate information about your projects. Organizing tweets or posts in a timeline to track specific projects and containing relevant conversation to a specific topic is a challenge. While maintaining a social media presence is important, newer and trendy social media platforms may constantly pop up and audiences may switch loyalties. A central and dynamic community engagement platform for your constituents will serve as a reliable one-stop shop for your audience to get timely and accurate information.

When searching for a user-friendly, online engagement platform for you and your target demographic, there are several factors that play a significant role. Ensuring data security and privacy will need to be a top priority. It is a hot-button issue in the news today due to security breaches, the Cambridge-Analytica and Facebook investigations and the European Union’s (EU) General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect shortly. There is rising awareness among the general public and a greater demand for clarity surrounding the types of data being collected and specifics around usage.

Bearing this in mind, there are six key factors organizations can keep in mind when evaluating online citizen engagement and community engagement platforms for their needs.

6 Steps to Ensure Data Security

Domain security

Securing and differentiating your platform as a government domain is important. For example, in the United States, a .gov domain is much safer than a regular .com website and the nomenclature is restricted to government entities. The United Kingdom has a .gov.uk convention and other countries have similar custom protocols. Additionally, ensure that any platform you select with robust security certificates that are renewed regularly.

Https instead of http

Websites with addresses that begin with an https are more secure because any information exchanged between two or more computers is encrypted and all messages sent are kept secure and no hackers can access them. This is now recommended by web browsers such as Google and search engines reward websites with an https instead of an http. We are very pleased to announce complimentary Basic SSL certificates for all EngagementHQ sites.

Password Encryption

Passwords are often a weak point in a system that hackers try to leverage. This makes it important to ensure that any website or platform you choose encrypts personal passwords and minimize risk. Software that requires users to create complex passwords using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols also strengthen password protection.

ISO 27001 Compliance for Information Security

The ISO 27001 is a stringent list of requirements for organizations looking to protect and secure their information systems and customer data. Undergoing the rigorous process of attaining the ISO 27001 certification requires a significant investment in terms of money, resources and time to evaluate and assess potential areas for security breaches throughout the entire organization and minimize risks. It involves regular internal and external audits, employee training and implementing a continuous improvement process. This requires a strong, long-term buy-in from senior level management. As a result, an ISO 27001 certification demonstrates a company’s commitment to data and information protection.

Privacy by Design

Privacy by design is a best practice for designing systems to incorporate privacy as a key component of a product/project process from the first stage to the last. It was first introduced in the 1990’s by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada with seven foundational principles to incorporate privacy by design. Though an older concept, it has recently gained a lot of attention due to the EU’s GDPR.

The GDPR aims to standardize data privacy laws across the EU and give EU citizens greater rights over their personal data. The GDPR will hold any organization dealing with the personal data of any EU citizen accountable for the protection of said data. Personal data refers to information collected that could be used to identify an individual – for example, a name, an address, an email address and other such parameters. Government communications will have to ensure security in order to build trust among their constituents.

Safe Space for Concerned Citizens

In this highly polarized age, productive discussions on social media regarding policies and programs can sometimes be challenging. A few rage-fueled conversations and online trolls can derail conversations and deter a vast voter base that might prefer a forum for less heated discussions where all voices can be heard. A digital platform that requires participants to register and moderates curse words and personal attacks goes a long way in providing constituents a safe and secure space to engage.

In summary, utilizing a secure online platform to engage with your citizens is essential for communications in today’s age and increasing active participation in communities.

Photo: pixelcreatures / Pixabay

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