How Your Business Can Implement Privacy-First Customer Data Policies

In a 2017 study by professional services agency PwC, 92 percent of respondents agreed that companies should be proactive about protecting customer data. In that same study, 60 percent indicated that the companies collecting data should be responsible for protecting it. Finally, 87 percent said that they’d take their business elsewhere if they felt a company was handling their data irresponsibly.

The numbers here speak for themselves. It’s in your company’s best interest to care about the privacy of its customers. Not just for branding purposes, but to avoid nasty issues like lawsuits and regulatory penalties.

The first step is organization and sanitization. You cannot adequately protect customer data if you cannot locate it. Where customer data is concerned, you need to know the following: 

  • What data you collect, and why you collect it
  • Where the data is stored 
  • Who can access the data
  • Who has ownership of the data
  • Why a criminal might be interested in the data
  • How a criminal might attempt to exfiltrate or compromise the data   
  • The laws and regulations associated with the data

Once your data is properly organized, you can take measures to protect it. First, make sure you’re up to date on encryption practices, and apply encryption technology to both at-rest and in-transit data. Outdated encryption technology is likely to be rife with vulnerabilities, any of which can be easily exploited by a savvy hacker.

Second, implement stringent access and authentication policies where customer data is concerned. If someone doesn’t need customer data to do their job, they don’t get access privileges. With that in mind, you should also consider what data you collect and whether you need to collect it; the more data you gather, the greater the value to criminals.

It’s also imperative that you educate internal staff about their role in keeping your information safe. Educate them on the importance of mindfulness, and guide them on how to avoid common tactics like phishing scams. Establish that each and every one of them has their part to play, and work with them to implement security in a way that does not interfere with their workflows. 

Finally, communicate openly with your audience about how you collect and utilize their data. Demonstrate to them that you take their rights seriously and that they retain ownership of their information. You might even consider destroying data after it’s been used, as an added layer of security. 

These days, data privacy seems to be in short supply, and very few organizations seem to genuinely care. Between the constant data breaches and security incidents even paying attention to the current state of affairs is, from a customer perspective, exhausting. Your business can be an outlier in this landscape. 

By implementing the necessary frameworks and policies and being open and honest with customers about their information, you can become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. 

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