Many of the ethical pitfalls related to the use of technology arise from the obligations to preserve client confidentiality and client property. For a brief discussion of data security, see Document and File Security: Fulfilling Your Duty to Preserve. As you’ll note, data security means ensuring that your electronic information is backed up, available to you when you need it, and properly preserved for your client.
Optional Video: In Bite Size CPD – The One Thing You Must Do to Protect Your Practice (7:05), Craig Zawada Q.C. explores the unexciting but mandatory task of data backups.
In addition to ethical obligations respecting client confidentiality, your practice is subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which legislates the collection, use, and retention of personal information, requiring reasonable measures to be taken to protect your clients’ personal information from risks of unauthorized access, use, disclosure, and disposal.
If you work with a laptop, take extra precautions to ensure the information that is stored on it is not accessible should someone steal the laptop, or should you forget it somewhere, such as in the Courthouse Library. Guard against physical theft of the computer as well as “theft” of the information that resides on it. Insurance may replace stolen equipment, but it will not rebuild shattered confidences.
If your computer is stolen, it is important not to simply think of it as a personal loss. If there is confidential client information on the computer, be certain to report the theft to the Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association as a claim may be forthcoming. Further, while it may not be feasible to contact every single client, you should contact clients who might be prejudiced if information from a stolen computer could be used against them.
In today’s world, it is likely that you have information, including client information, that is stored in the cloud, instead of on a hard drive or personal server. Email services such as Outlook and Gmail, programs such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs, and file sharing and data storage services such as One Drive and Google Drive all use cloud-based storage.
Optional Video: Watch Bite Size CPD – Using the Cloud (6:19) to learn of some of the benefits and risks of using the cloud.
When using cloud-based storage, you must understand its particular security risks such as data breaches, weak access management, system vulnerabilities, and others as well as ways to mitigate those risks such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and other security measures. This is part of your ethical obligation.
To ensure that you are using any cloud services in a manner that complies with privacy obligations, ethical responsibilities, Law Society requirements and also appropriately manages security risks, please see the Cloud Computing Checklist in Cloud Computing Guide: Best Practices and Checklist for Law Practices in Saskatchewan.