Do You Collect Personal Information?

collecting personal info

Churches of all sizes look for best practices in how to protect personal information online. Today, a congregation can engage with the church community in many ways. Because of that, the sign up for such participation often comes digitally. Online signup forms for volunteer opportunities, church camps, classes or ways of giving to the church or a mission are just a few of the examples of how today’s churches reach the masses. Greater reach means greater exposure, too. While protecting personal information online is a process there are simple steps you can take today to safeguard your ministry and your members.  

Just last year, a Mission data breach exposed thousands of personal information items of volunteers, applicants and employees.  

Here are 3 Ways to Lower Your Risk When Collecting Personal Information Online.

1. Safeguard Access to Personal Information

A crucial first step is to learn who exactly at your church can access the online personal information of your congregation. In mid to large-sized churches there may exist an entire team with access to volunteer forms, online tithing or church classes. However, even in smaller churches the chance for digital personal information to change hands easily happens. Be on the safe side by giving this access to only a small number of people. For example, only the Volunteer Lead has access to online volunteer forms. Next, access is only given to the Lead Curriculum Developer for online class registration. With that, each Lead gets proper training on your church’s Cyber Security Policy. While these systems may sound cumbersome at first, taking the time to ensure proper access will safeguard and significantly reduce your risk. 

Increasingly, churches pursue multiple avenues to increase congregation engagement. As a result, this opens up a new vulnerability in how to protect personal information online to keep givers’ information safe.  

2. Maintain Regular Updates to Your Online Privacy Policy  

Privacy Policies are mandatory for users to complete most online forms. In addition, all platforms should have that privacy policy: the church mobile app, the website and even social media channels that collect personal information or direct to form signup. Is your Privacy Policy current? Often, these have not been reviewed in years and become outdated. Lower your risk of liability by reviewing and updating your online privacy policy at least annually. Next, embed this policy into each separate platform to cover all channels. 

According to Church Tech Today, digital tools such as church mobile apps are a powerful way to connect with your congregation. Review your church app’s security to minimize the risk of personal information exposure. 

3. Improve Your Computer and Internet Security 

Hackers are very sophisticated. Staying a step ahead of their ill-intentioned efforts can be a full time but very necessary job. Hire a highly reputable support company to keep your online security running smoothly. Then, once every quarter, enlist their expert to review your computer and internet security and go over every detail. This is a smart investment to ensure your church’s online protection. 

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Computer and Internet Security

  1. Always install security updates. 
  2. Install and maintain a strong firewall. 
  3. Use encryption in your church’s Wi-Fi network. 
  4. Store data backups in an off-site location. Your 3rd party support company can assist you with this step.  
  5. Scan often for viruses.  

At Beacon Insurance, our difference is in our expertise. Contact us today for a policy review to be sure the adequate protection is there for your church. 

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