By Ruzayda Martens

WE should think hard about the way we handle personal data. Not doing so could lead to inappropriate disclosure, affect human rights, jeopardize implementation of projects and even put lives at risk.

Here is the thing: Nowadays personal data can be easily transferred across borders. We live in a digital world, technology is expanding rapidly, and there have been increased incidences of data theft and data loss. Data protection is relevant to all the organization’s activity areas. A standardized approach to data protection reinforces our commitment to respect the well-being and dignity of beneficiaries, helps to protect the interests of the Organization and harmonizes practices. More than many agencies, IOM handles large volumes of extremely personal data and deals with human lives on a daily basis. It is, thus, important for everyone to consider data protection in their daily work.

The best way is to think of the “Five C’s” when it comes to personal data: CARE - Handle personal data with due care throughout the data processing cycle from project development and implementation to evaluation and reporting. CAUTION - Always apply caution when collecting and disclosing personal data, particularly sensitive data. CONFIDENTIAL - Treat personal data as confidential at all times. CONSENT - To the extent possible, obtain the (written) consent of the individual concerned to collect and process any personal data. CONTRACT - Ensure adequate safeguards are included in a written contract.

International Data Protection Day comes every year on January 28th and IOM supports it with a week of awareness raising on the importance of protecting personal data in the scope of the organizations activities.

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Ruzayda Martens is a Legal Officer for IOM