We’ve all been there. Waiting in line, alone, 1 or 2 spots away from the customer service counter at the local Registries office. Looking around the office, you see new furniture, smell fresh paint and hear the receptionist’s squeaky voice on repeat, “Hello, **** Registries and Insurance Office, how can I help you?” You focus on the conversation around you, not on purpose, but you are there, in line and your ears naturally hear everything around you.
On this particular day, I heard the results of an elderly man’s medical appointment experience just prior to showing up to the Registries office to renew his driver’s license. The Customer Service Representative (CSR) and him spoke for nearly 10 minutes in a question and answer conversation style. During this time, the gentleman verbally confirmed his name- with spelling, home address, height, weight and eye colour, which was blue. I remember most of his answers as well as the next person’s in line, which is what prompted this BLOG as well as my own personal solution when it became my turn at the CSR counter.
“Next”, she said. I approached. “Name Please”, she said. I pulled out my pen and paper and wrote down my name. She looked at me like I was voiceless and asked, “Will you be writing down all your answers?” I said, “Yes, due to the lack of voice privacy protection measures. You will be asking me to confirm a number of personal details and whilst you are bound by confidentiality, the people behind me in line here are not”. I felt the lineup of people listening at that point, but did not turn around to confirm.
First, offices of all types can assess their work space as it related to privacy and access matters with a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). The PIA assessment will highlight areas for improvement and ensure policies and procedures have been developed in alignment with Alberta’s Privacy Legislation- FOIP, HIA or PIPA.
Next, turn the PIA plan into action with sound and visual privacy.
“Masking Sound is the addition of generated sound into an environment to mask unwanted sound. It relies on auditory masking. Masking sound is not an active noise control. Masking sound reduces or eliminates perception of sound. The technology is promoted as a widespread application to an entire area to improve the acoustical satisfaction and by improving the acoustical privacy of the space”. Source: Wikipedia Sound Masking
Offices: Install surround sound speakers. With a low volume, certain music can significantly assist in sound masking answers customers give to service agents questions, not from the agent, but from the others in the vicinity.
Small dividers/cubicles could also be helpful in creating private spaces where long lineups occur and information is verbally shared.
“The protection of sensitive information as it is displayed on screen- is an emerging issue in information security and an under addressed area of risk in corporate security policies. Given the rapid digitization of sensitive information and the growing mobility of workings the need to protect displayed information has grown…Tools such as privacy filters can help reduce the risk of data exposures by blocking the side views of a computer screen.”
In addition to being given all the tools such as background melodies and privacy screen filters, employees need to be well educated on the risks of visual and sound privacy breaches. Training should be mandatory and considered a vital part of business operations.