Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Government Access: Privacy Meets Resources

While our customers work to support those who need help, protecting their client records becomes critical. This gets interesting at the intersection of charitable or nonprofit support, and government sponsored support. This is how we solve the privacy issue:
Across communities, clients seek support from a wide range of organizations; and in turn charitable, nonprofit, for profit and government organizations and agencies all provide a wide range of assistance to those in need. To gain access to these resources, clients need to provide at least basic information about themselves. This helps measure need and response, and mitigates fraud.

The problem comes when a client needs to give more information than they are comfortable releasing to gain help, and particularly when that information is expected by governmental agencies. Again, it's the intersection: if a client works with a nonprofit organization and also needs support from governmental agencies, should the nonprofit agency share client information with the governmental agency?

Complex statutes and policies govern privacy rights and the competing claims for the public's health and safety. Indeed, how information can or should be shared with governmental agencies varies across jurisdiction. As one example: an un-documented person may not seek assistance from a charity, if that charity is sharing information with governmental agencies.

Because there is no one way to solve this dilemma, VisionLink's approach is provide a special government sharing permission structure within our software. CommunityOS allows system managers to identify client records that can, and cannot be shared with various government agencies.

The technical solution is actually quite complex, but from a user's perspective, client records can be marked as authorized for government sharing or not, and these permissions can vary across different portals and data forms for either simple or highly sophisticated collaboration or strict privacy.

The end result is that the client is in control. They can decide who can see their data, and to what extent--and--for what purpose. It's a solution that allows community builders to bring together the best of a community's resources, regardless of their origin or control.

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink