I have been more than a little concerned at the lack of conversation among our MLS clients with contemplating consumer privacy and how personally identifiable information (PII) is being handled by the MLS. This whitepaper released today was a welcome sight.
The privacy whitepaper was authored by James Harrison, President and CEO of MLSListings, serving a large segment of Northern California from San Luis Obispo County to San Francisco. Harrison’s passion and serious concern about the potential risk to the MLS industry is delivered with deep understanding of the issues.
Harrison articulates that MLSs receive, store, and often distribute many types of personally identifiable information for “current employees, former employees, customers, and consumers.” The type of PII often takes the form of a “name, social security number, date, place of birth, bank account, postal address, email address, phone number, and employment information” writes Harrison. Uniquely to real estate there may be additional PII includes “the personal description of the agent, including spouse, children, pets, areas of specialty,” and other data ingredients.” This is exactly the type of private information that regulations seek to protect.
Harrison outlines seven best practices that MLSs should consider in securing private information entrusted to them by their staff, participants and subscribers – and often consumers. The best practices range from having a crisis plan in the event of a breach, to some difficult challenges like demanding vendor compliance. Our Nations’ MLSs are going to need to push positive change to keep real estate data systems safe. This an excellent first step.
Full press release below:
MLSListings CEO Examines the Need to Protect Real Estate Data in PII White Paper
“The Internet is not a safe place for most consumers or businesses today. It feels as if individuals and companies are getting hacked or scammed almost daily,” said Harrison. Data breaches regularly make the news and involve familiar names from the technology universe such as Google, Apple and Facebook. Personally Identifiable Information, (PII), is acquired by and lives within the electronic files of thousands of businesses. The protection of this private information has spawned new laws at state, national and international levels. “We need to implement the highest PII standards possible in our nation’s MLSs now,” claims Harrison.
PII is information that can be used on its own or with additional information to identify, locate or contact a single person or individual. In other words, nearly everything information-related about people with whom real estate professionals conduct transactions. Those transactions most often involve information that can compromise privacy. PII, while predominately stored in data bases, is not a technology concept. It is a legal concept, and therefore carries the responsibility and obligation to provide data security.
Most recently, the issue of protecting private information within the real estate transaction has surfaced as not only an issue for real estate firms, but for those real estate businesses that provide technology tools and services, such as the multiple listing service or MLS. This is unfamiliar territory for the MLS environment which can also include vendor vulnerability. In the release of this white paper aimed at this emerging issue, James Harrison, CEO of Silicon Valley’s MLSListings, Inc. outlines the need for new levels of security for MLSs, the need for data mapping, and the obligation to create a crisis plan.
It is important for real estate service companies to identify the new laws that apply to their businesses and to remain up to date on changes.
We ask that you support the effort to improve our nation’s MLS services by collaborating in the dissemination and consideration of this important issue so that we may work on solutions that benefit all of us.
MLSListings COO, Dave Wetzel will moderate a panel on security issues at the upcoming annual conference of the Council of Multiple Listing Services, (CMLS), September 26-28.
About MLSListings Inc
MLSListings Inc. is recognized as a premier multiple listing service in the nation. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley and specializing in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties, MLSListings provides real estate professionals and consumers with accurate data that is updated every five minutes. Facilitating more than $70 billion in annual real estate activity, the MLSListings platform is the intersection of comprehensive real estate data and the transaction for the northern California marketplace.
Contact: Myra Jolivet