The Dutch ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) recently published its yearly data leak report. Due to their advanced reporting culture, the Dutch report the most data leaks per inhabitant in the world. For this reason, many countries look to the Netherlands to better understand data leak trends. In fact, if the British reporting model were to reflect the Netherlands, it is probable that the ICO would receive over 80,000 reports annually!
How much data is lost due to postal mail?
The latest report showed that an alarming 41% of data leaks (10,192 cases) were attributed to the mishandling of paper-based communications containing sensitive personal data.
Considering ICO numbers, ‘Data posted or faxed to incorrect recipients’ accounts for 10% of all data leaks in the UK. Whilst not insignificant, Dutch reports highlight that this is likely under-reported in the UK, where organizations (including the NHS and legal sector) are renowned for still relying on print and post.
Beyond the obvious security risks, there are numerous reasons for organizations to make the move away from paper-based communications:
- Expense: Sending a single letter (print, paper, envelope, postage, handling etc) can cost between £1 to £2
- Environmental impact: It takes 1 tree for every 10,000 A4 pages. Additionally, mail needs to be processed and transported, contributing to environmental impact.
- Slow: From sending to receiving, post can take anywhere from one to five days.
- Non-interactive: In our digital age, in most cases, engaging with paper-based communications leaves a lot to be desired in terms of customer experience.
So why are organizations still relying on mail?
We find that this is often for one of three reasons:
- Resistance to change: Old habits die hard. Changing behaviour is complicated and requires commitment. But when cost savings are on the line, we can be more easily persuaded.
- Value placed on confidentiality: Mail is officially protected by confidentiality laws which offer legal protection for postal items during transport. However, while this is convenient for later prosecution of someone who violates confidentiality, and certainly has a deterrent effect, it does not guarantee that information won't be accessed by the wrong person.
- False sense of security: Many people believe that traditional mail is secure, however, as proven by aforementioned ICO reports, the number of reported data breaches related to mail is far higher than that of digital communication.
The secure alternative to mail
So why should organizations make the switch from traditional paper and post to secure email?
1. Reduces the leading causes of data leaks
Smart solutions empower employees while they draft emails with real-time alerts powered by machine learning, supporting secure decision-making to ensure that the right information is sent to the right person, and with the appropriate security measures applied.
2. Send more, save more
Email is 10 to 100 times cheaper than post. Plus, the fact is, with the average cost of a data breach exceeding €4 million, most organizations can no longer afford to ignore the security benefits of digital communications.
3. Drive efficiency
Printing, folding, addressing, franking, sending… employees can spend hours processing traditional paper-based mail - time they simply don’t have. An email, on the other hand, takes moments to send and is far more convenient for recipients to engage with, too.
4. Ensure security
While the confidentiality of traditional mail is important, advanced security inbuilt into email promises to protect sensitive data at the level of registered mail, preventing interception of information and ensuring that only the intended recipient can access information.
5. Environmentally friendly
This one is simple! Email does not require trees for paper, sorting machines, or vehicles for mail delivery. So, in addition to the cost and security benefits, digital communications are far kinder to the planet, too.
Paper-based communications propose a number of accessibility issues, including reading, writing, language etc. With secure email, content can be automatically translated, and digital tools can be supported according to accessibility standards, such as WCAG 2.1.
7. Timely and reliable
Organizations no longer need to factor in multiple days for sending important communications to stakeholders. Email is instant, and smart email solutions provide a reliable overview of emails sent, received and more.
8. Improve engagement
Unlike with post, recipients can respond instantly via email, which is particularly important when returning information is required.
9. More insight, more control
Once a letter has been posted, the sender can only assume (and hope!) that it has arrived. Secure email enables recipients to track when a message has been delivered and opened, and whether attachments have been downloaded, at any given time. This kind of detail is particularly helpful for ensuring compliance.
10. Stand out from the crowd
In a time where sustainability, inclusivity, productivity, and digitalization are paramount, working with secure email highlights an organization’s commitment to data protection, strengthening your reputation and reassuring customers that their data is safe in your hands.
Post or email: Providing the choice
While the benefits of secure email are clear, digital inclusion must not be ignored, particularly for public sector organizations. Some individuals may not have access to email, or may simply prefer traditional paper and post.
This is why paper and digital communication should always be based on opt-in or opt-out, allowing recipients to choose their preferred form of communication.
Join thousands of smart organisations transitioning from postal mail to secure email
Safe, compliant, cheap, reliable, accessible, transparent, interactive - when it comes to improving processes, email is the clear winner.
It's time to put away the envelopes and make the move to secure digital communications and we're ready to help!
Last updated - 27/06/23