Risk Management vs. Big Brother

Craig Banikowski takes a look at the fine line between risk management and an overbearing and potentially privacy invading way of managing traveling employees. Read below for a look at useful tips to maintain safety from a close but reasonable distance.

As travel professionals working in the aftermath of 9/11, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and the July 2005 London underground bombings, our reality includes helping to ensure the safety and security of travelers in a world full of tsunamis, nuclear threats and SARS.  In fact, the responsibility has evolved and expanded over the years providing a myriad of challenges to companies, travel managers, travelers and data privacy advocates.  Unfortunately, the geo-political globally traveled world we live in has evolved as well, providing further challenges for everyone.  Alongside these conditions, we must be ever mindful of that omnipresent figure representing oppressive control and insight – Big Brother.

So what are some of the challenges, and how do we overcome them?  Of critical importance to everyone is data integrity and security.  We are all aware of the constant assault on security from password hacking to identity theft.  Travel data includes many aspects of critical information; therefore it deserves to be protected with as much diligence as possible.  From governmental regulations on data privacy to corporate regulations on data transfer, we must be vigilant and educated on current processes to help protect our travelers’ data.  Do we need to be IT specialists?  No, however; we must embrace and understand the requirements put forth in the current marketplace through conversation and partnership with our IT departments and privacy officers to ensure our mutual success. Staying abreast of laws such as HIPAA, the UK Data Protection Act of 1998, the EU’s Data Protection Directive, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and others will help ensure the travel professionals seat at the table when representing the needs to share and communicate data to help protect travelers while ensuring the sanctity of their constituents privacy

Travelers must also be educated to take responsibility for their own safety and security.  The anecdote that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink is appropriate in that travelers are often provided information that is disregarded…until it’s needed.  As travel leaders, we all know that despite the warnings and notices placed on itineraries at the request of our corporations, it is rare that they are read by travelers.  Vital, critical information that is shared must be acknowledged by travelers to help ensure their own safety & security, as well as ensuring compliance and demonstrating duty of care for the company providing the data.  Thus, the industry is evolving towards the “yes, I have read and agree to this information” tick boxes to support acknowledgement.  Yet again, in the back of our mind, we hear the other side of the coin spinning to state …how many times do people actually read the “agreement” terms when installing new software, updates and more?! Again, it’s not the intent of travel professionals tasked with safety and security needs to infringe but rather to inform!

So is it the fault of the traveler that they, like everyone, are inundated with email, texts, updates, etc.?  It’s truly an evolution that is occurring as we speak.  Travel professionals can now hone content and provide data that is far more appropriate to the travelers’ trip than in the past.  Is the traveler still on the hook? Absolutely!  The message that content is important to their position as a traveler in the organization must be consistently communicated and enforced as part of an overall travel management strategy. The travel professionals voice and want is not exclusive, but rather must echo and include voices from human resources, IT, risk management and of course, senior leadership.

As the industry evolves, we will continue to be bombarded with the “big brother versus safety” conversation especially in light of dialogue surrounding items such as GPS location technology, data sharing with third parties, cloud server storage security, and other critical privacy data points.  Travel professionals and industry experts need to ensure they are working diligently to provide accurate, timely, protected, and cogent data to a more educated and erudite traveler to help dispel the fear that an individual’s privacy is being impacted in a negative manner through effectively managed traveler safety and security programs. In times of need, a big brother can indeed be an ally!

Craig Banikowski

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