Secure file transfer: The cornerstone of digital government
- By Bob Janacek
- Oct 08, 2015
As state and local government agencies move from costly, inefficient paper-based systems to electronic processing, they’re often stymied by privacy and security requirements.
Before law enforcement officials can legally search someone’s property, for example, they need a warrant – often a paper form, which must be couriered to a judge (who must first be located), and then carried to the location where the warrant will be served. This could take several hours, during which the opportunity to catch a criminal may be lost. Police efforts are handcuffed while officers wait.
So why can’t the warrant just get emailed to the judge? Simple – privacy and security regulations. Electronic transmission of certain documents, like search warrants, must be secured.
External-facing processes aren’t much better. Citizens applying for permits or making payments to their city or town fill out forms, mail them in and wait for them to be processed. Each paper form submitted by a citizen requires someone at the town office to process it. This entails entering the information into a database, which takes time and increases the potential for error.
So why can’t citizens be responsible for their own data entry, via the Internet? Again – privacy and security regulations. If a citizen is going to submit information online, the transmission of the information must be secured.
Unscrambling the solution
The good news is that there is technology available to help understaffed city departments to process requests involving sensitive citizen information and to support internal processes such as warrants. It's called encrypted file transfer.
Encryption lets law enforcement securely send a search warrant to a judge, who can approve it and securely email it back – within minutes. Encryption can also allow citizens to request permits and file their local taxes or make other payments online. It allows local governments to remain compliant in the handling and transmitting of confidential information.
In Green, Ohio, for example, officials upgraded the town’s electronic tax filing system. The new interface, simple and intuitive, allows residents to complete and file their tax forms electronically -- secure file transfer technology encrypts and submits the information, calculates the taxes owed and sends a confirmation email to the user. Not only is this easier and faster for taxpayers, it relieves the Green Income Tax Division’s tiny staff of manually processing paper-based forms.
Green’s story is not unique, as many government agencies move to electronic communications. The benefits include lower costs, greater convenience, expedited communications and less chance of human error. The only sticking point, until recently, has been ensuring data security that meets rigid government requirements.
But once an easy-to-use – and secure – system is implemented, citizens can file for permits and licenses via secured online forms, ensuring accuracy of information and saving time. Companies can request and receive confidential background checks on potential hires through secured transmissions. Police agencies can send requests for warrants to judges who can approve them instantly, allowing officers to execute searches and arrests immediately.
Encrypted communication, in other words, is helping agencies increase efficiency in both internal and citizen-facing processes. It's time to ditch the paper.
Bob Janacek is co-founder and chief technology officer of DataMotion.