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Youth sports organizations have plenty of reasons for collecting information that may be considered sensitive or personal.

Often they are for safety protocols, such as emergency situations that might require having a player’s health-care number. Other registration information such as birth certificates, health insurance and date of birth is also collected by sports organizations and maintained for the duration of that player’s time with the group.

It’s easy to see how a breach of privacy could occur like the one that did earlier this week where medical records from the Yellowknife Minor Fastball Association were found at the city landfill. Youth sports organization’s don’t have strict data processes for collection, retention and eventual disposal like a board of education might have for its student data.

In the old days this type of data wasn’t even collected but the game has changed for these organizations and so should the collecting, storing and eventual destruction of that information.

It was unfortunate that the records were accidentally thrown out during a move, however, this provides a learning experience not only for the fastball association, but for all youth organizations on how they store and protect the sensitive data of its players whether in paper form or online.

Although youth sports has very valid reasons for collecting personal information on players, care must be taken to ensure that those records don’t fall into the wrong hands. Weak privacy practices open that data up to financial, medical and identity theft – a crime that is on the rise as children don’t have existing credit files and the theft can go unnoticed for years.

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That means its especially important for parents and leagues to ensure there’s a balance with privacy and that strong data practices are in place.

It’s good that the fastball association will be notifying anyone who might have been affected by this breach and that it will be reviewing its policies on how it handles player data going forward.

The association has already retired the need to collect players’ health-care numbers and there are other things it can do to limit the amount of personal information it carries on young players. Simple policies such as verifying a birth certificate instead of keeping physical copies or having policies in place like not listing a player’s last name if they are under 16 years old and keeping personal information and access to that information to a minimum for paper and online data are crucial to protecting young players.

Youth sports teams provide an opportunity for our children to learn valuable lessons about team-work, fair play and engage in physical activities. It’s up to parents and organizations to be mindful of the need for protecting the information needed to allow them to take part.

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