In New Jersey, data privacy starts with basic education

“It’s a really exciting time in the state of New Jersey with respect to privacy,” state chief data and privacy officer Carrie Parikh tells StateScoop in a video interview.

Parikh says the excitement comes from the broad array of initiatives currently underway in the state designed to ensure that private data stays private, starting with a privacy framework.

“The Office of Information Technology is helping the executive branch, the 92 departments and agencies, set up their very first privacy framework,” Parikh says. “So we’re starting with very basic things like educating folks with what the definition of PII (personally identifiable information) is, what the definition of PHI (protected health information) is.”

The state’s privacy efforts begin with basic education but they extend to more advanced practices, such as finding ways to minimize risk and systemizing those practices.

“We’re talking to folks about data minimization,” Parikh says. “Do we really need to be collecting all of the information that we’re collecting? Are we using it morally, ethically, responsibly? Are we only keeping it for as long as we should? And then building out all of the protocols around that.”

And while states may not need to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, Parikh says they should still treat citizen data responsibly.

“New Jersey, not unlike any of the other states, doesn’t have the GDPR to comply with in the U.S.,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean we should not be as responsible if not more responsible than a private entity with your data because you have no choice but to turn it over to us. The obligations to treat it well are very, very high.”

To that end, she said, the state is building out a privacy working group and for the first time state agencies are talking together about critical privacy issues.

Parikh on her top priorities:

“The big dirty M word, modernization. Obviously getting off of legacy systems, moving into a more digitalized government [is a priority.]”

Parikh on IT modernization:

“We’re really looking to streamline the citizens’ experience, while building in certain protections for them from a privacy and cybersecurity perspective. A great example of that is the digitization of forms.”

Parikh on emerging technology:

“I see it as connecting dots that we have never connected before. By allowing all these listening devices into our homes, into the government even, to government spaces, by the interconnectivity of devices, by allowing GPS, geo-location, cookie tracking, the government can use all those things the way the private space does, to learn about our citizens.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.