20 January 2009

Don't Collect It If You Don't Need It

If you don't have to collect sensitive data, it saves you having to justify it, keep it securely, monitor access to the data and ensure it is destroyed completely at the end of its retention period. I came across this example from The Nuffield Trust.

Minimising the collection and retention of sensitive data is highlighted as a protection measure in the report for the Information Commissioner's Office Privacy by Design and the recent US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) draft Special Publication 800-122, Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) - see also my previous post Protection of Personally Identifiable Information.

The links to download publications from The Nuffield Trust give a web page with a hyperlink to download the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) version anonymously, as well as the option to register with an explanation why The Nuffield Trust thinks it would be useful to do this.

Partial screen capture from a publication download page on the web site of The Nuffield Trust showing the text 'This is a free download, but to help us monitor our readership and improve our service we would be grateful if you would register your details below. You will not be asked for these details again. Thank you for your collaboration. Download without registration (PDF File)...', a log in form and a registration form

Why do so many other organisations make registration mandatory for access to resources, often available free-of-charge elsewhere? See also Too Little and Too Much Authentication.

In a post this week by Jared Spool, he describes The $300 Million Button about a web site where removing the registration step at check-out increased sales by 45%. And, they didn't have all that sensitive data to look after. Interestingly he also notes that almost half the previous customer accounts were duplicates.

Just a note, the forms to log in, register and recover the password on this example page—and the actions of these—should be undertaken over an encrypted connection (i.e. SSL/TLS) to protect the data in transit; so, the trust's page is an example of both good practice and bad practice.

Posted on: 20 January 2009 at 09:17 hrs

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