By NAR First Vice President Steve Brown
We used to fear things that go bump in the night. With the internet, however, we must now look over our shoulder 24/7/365.
eHarmony…AOL…Monster.com…Google…CardSystems Solutions: what do all these large companies have in common? All were victims of some of the worst data security breaches ever. REALTORS are not immune. Greater use of databases and social media make data privacy and security very important issue for the real estate industry. In our wired world, the vulnerabilities of technology are more than enough to keep us awake at night.
When the 113th Congress meets in January, they are expected to look at the issues of data privacy and security and how they can better protect consumers from criminals ready to exploit weaknesses in technology.
Already in 2009, though, NAR had the foresight to create a Federal Technology Policy Work Group. Their task was to look at the Association’s technology and telecommunications policy positions. Among the work group’s resulting recommendations were a set of principles guiding privacy and data security.
The work group recognized the need to explore the development of a real estate industry self-regulatory program for privacy and data security. The purpose would be to seek a “safe harbor” from future federal privacy legislation. To accomplish this goal, NAR established a permanent Federal Technology Policy Subcommittee.
Now many members, particularly the large brokers, believe it’s critical that we establish a set of “Privacy Best Practices” for REALTORS. These would further enhance the working relationship with consumers and help prepare members for future federal privacy legislation.
The key to implementing a self-regulatory program will be education and outreach efforts by NAR. These will focus on creating educational opportunities for NAR members, centralizing a place where members can go for information, and increasing security precautions on standard real estate forms. These efforts will go forward, even as the Federal Technology Policy Subcommittee continues to explore the best way to achieve a self-regulatory program that will meet future federal requirements.
No one wants their private information in the hands of computer hackers. Know that NAR has been, and continues to work to establish the strongest, cutting edge methods to better protect you, your families and your clients. Things may continue to go bump in the night—but you can get a good night’s sleep. Through NAR, your fellow members are on guard.
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