Social work is not immune to the ethical issues introduced by the ubiquitous presence of new technology. The use of laptops, tablets, and cellphones outside the safety and security of the office environment, connecting to public Wi-Fi, “liking” posts on Facebook, tracking hashtags on Twitter, sending messages via Snapchat, and pinning pictures on Pinterest all engage a vastly more efficient, but less secure communication environment. Given the nature of the duties social workers are engaged in, their involvement with vulnerable populations, and the trust they seek to establish with their clients, the need for expert guidance in how to navigate this terrain is extremely important.
The four major social work organizations, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA), the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) have collaborated over the last two years to produce a detailed and comprehensive document that addresses the current challenges associated with technology’s expanding role in social work education and practice.
The updated standards have been divided into the following sections:
1. Provision of Information to the Public
2. Designing and Delivering Services
3. Gathering, Managing, and Storing Information
4. Social Work Education and Supervision
The widespread use of Global Vision Technologies’ FAMcare case management technology suite naturally focuses our attention on number 3; Gathering, Managing, and Storing Information. During the discussion surrounding the guidelines, Mirean Coleman, MSW, LICSW, CT, clinical manager of the NASW said this:
“Technology appears to have made work easier for social workers. The filing system is simple. Work is accessible 24 hours a day, making telecommuting an important part of the workforce. It is easy to submit electronic claims, patients are accessible and easy to contact, services can be rendered from any location, and the internet provides a wealth of information and resources within minutes.”
Advanced electronic devices coupled with Global Vision Technologies’ powerful software solutions have radically altered the social worker’s life for the better. But whether it’s online communication or electronic recordkeeping, there are also a number of associated risks. Devices containing sensitive information can be lost or stolen. Systems can be hacked, and private information can be accessed. In the case of a ransomware attack, important files can be encrypted and rendered inaccessible – a costly problem if the files haven’t been backed up. And while having the flexibility to work from any setting can be extremely useful, it brings unique risks, e.g., privacy and security issues when exchanging sensitive information using public Wi-Fi.
GVT systems address some of these risks. Our systems include measures to protect the integrity and security of your data:
- Physical Security – We utilize two, state-of-the-art, world-class co-located data centers each offering a high level of security maintained through a five-level system that includes access codes, a security guard station, biometric hand scanners, electronic proximity readers, and security cameras.
- Network connectivity access and internet bandwidth are each covered by Service Level Agreements assuring 99.99% up-time.
- Regular backups occur hourly, and off-site storage occurs 1x/month.
- All backup media is fully encrypted with 128 bit AES encryption.
- GVT uses Sonicwall firewalls for intrusion prevention and works with two separate penetration-testing firms to measure the integrity of the firewalls each month.
The One Big Risk Factor
Sensitive client data is more secure in GVT’s environment than ever before in the history of social work. However, as the collaboration of the four social work associations reminds social workers, all the advanced security in the world cannot prevent “loss by carelessness” at the point of contact. As social workers work more spontaneously outside the office and communicate casually with friends, colleagues, and clients through new electronic media, they must become even more self-conscious and cautious about what they’re saying, where they’re saying it, and through what media they’re communicating.
No security system ever invented can secure your data from intrusion if you’re the one leaking the data in the first place.