Local business shreds documents and misconceptions about privacy

By Lucie Roy

Morinville – H& R Block Master Tax professional Darlene Lafond said she wants to be known as the privacy guru in town. Lafond and Morinville H&R Block staff members hosted a Bring your Own Box Annual Shred Day and Open House Jan. 28. Documents were shred by Iron Mountain Shredding.

“It is important to know when and what to destroy,” Lafond said during one of the privacy sessions that were held throughout the day. The privacy session was summed up in the 10 best practices to prevent data and privacy breaches along with reasonable safeguards to follow. Lafond stressed the importance of asking questions and getting to know how businesses protect your personal information. Whether it is the hairdresser, restaurants, retail store or car repair, it is important to be diligent. “Be more aware of the infringements on your privacy,” Lafond said. “We can assume but [we] all know what they say about assume. We should feel obligated to protect ourselves and ask them.” Lafond went on to say all businesses should have a privacy assurance officer and protocol, and it is up to the individual to ask questions about what they do with your file and how secure your data is.

One privacy concern that was discussed was the poor e-mail standards in use today. This can be seen in everyday activities in the way people forward and send jokes to each other as well as other information. Everybody’s email address is in the ‘To’ or the ‘Cc’ field forming a long list. This is unprofessional and it sends the e-mail addresses of people who may not want to have their information out there. Instead you can insert Bcc: recipients. They get a copy of the e-mail but their e-mail is automatically deleted at delivery. Another digital privacy concern was social media and the wealth of information a person places on websites like Facebook where others may copy it to their advantage.

On the topic of real world privacy, Lafond said people should be cautious of using the older straight line shredders where anyone can tape documents back together. The seminar provided a list of documents and for what length of time the documents should be retained. Some rules of document retention indicate three years but Lafond prefers seven. “Seven is a nice rule,” Lafond said, adding medical records, if they include years of treatment, could be kept for historical reasons or as a personal choice or for renewing insurance purposes. Pay stubs should be retained for at least seven years if you use any of the deductions on your income tax and if any insurance premiums are withheld.

Lafond explained if someone is a victim of a security breach, they should contact the RCMP, municipal or town authority, insurers, professional bodies, banks, credit card companies and privacy commissioners.

January 28 is recognized as Data Privacy Day across North America and Europe. With social media, computers, activities taking place at home, schools and in the community the goal is to encourage discussions and understanding about data security and protection and make people aware of best practices. Lafond said she plans to make this a once a year activity and is looking to spend more time with the community covering the topic.

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