5 Ways to Protect Customer Data and Privacy

As a business owner, you have an ethical and legal obligation to protect your customers’ privacy, which includes their personal information and data. A failure to live up to this obligation could lead to serious fines and other penalties. Furthermore, it could erode the trust you’ve worked so hard to build in the marketplace. 


Read on to learn how to get serious about protecting your customers’ data.


The Skinny on Privacy Laws and Regulations


As the internet has expanded and more business transactions have shifted online, the government has been forced to play catch-up in order to protect consumer privacy. In many ways, this has made things confusing for business owners.


“The United States doesn’t have a singular law that covers the privacy of all types of data,” reporter Thorin Klosowski explains. “Instead, it has a mix of laws that go by acronyms like HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, COPPA, and VPPA.”


Data privacy laws typically depend on the industry and the type of data being collected. This makes it challenging to know which rules you’re required to follow and which sets of laws apply. However, it’s best to just follow the old adage that says it’s better to be safe than sorry. In other words, just keep customer data safe and you won’t have to worry about anything. 


5 Consumer Privacy Tips


Protecting customer data is as much a requirement as it is an ethical obligation owed to the people who have entrusted you with their personal information. With that in mind, here are several useful privacy tips:

  • Put Someone in Charge


If your company doesn’t already have someone in charge of consumer data and privacy, you need to assign one of your staff members to this role. This is not something that can be done on a “committee” basis. If everyone is in charge, nobody is in charge.


The individual responsible for collecting, storing, and protecting consumer information should have an advanced knowledge of consumer privacy laws and regulations that apply to your organization. If you don’t have anyone on your team with knowledge in this area, you may need to hire an outside consultant or company to assume this role. Do not take shortcuts here.

  • Limit What You Collect


Don’t collect more information than you need. That’s one of the simplest and most important tips you’ll ever get in relation to data privacy.


If you only need someone’s name and email address, don’t collect their address and phone number. And if you can get away with a driver’s license number or a different personal identification number, don’t ask for a Social Security number. Your organization immediately becomes responsible for anything you collect.

  • Protect the Data You Collect


When protecting data, make sure you’re taking the proper security measures to safeguard the information. This should involve advanced methods when appropriate. For example, it’s a good idea to encrypt all files and data that you store in the cloud using an advanced data privacy solution like Box.

  • Tighten Access Control


Always limit who has access to what information and data within your company. Just because someone is on your team, doesn’t mean they should have unlimited access to all files. Consumer data should be accessible on an as-needed basis. Tight access control and rigid password policies are absolutely must-haves.

  • Use Private Policies


Develop and post privacy policies for consumers that clearly outline what your company’s best practices are when it comes to collecting, storing, using, and safeguarding information. Not only does this establish a layer of privacy, but it also gives you some form of legal protection, should there be any problems down the road.


Communicate Well


Even with the tightest security practices and airtight access control, issues do happen. And when a problem arises, the best thing you can do is be transparent.


Clear and direct communication is always the best policy. If you can get ahead of the issue by explaining what happened and what your organization is doing to rectify the issue, you’ll usually earn more benefit of the doubt. 


Stay one step ahead and never retreat in the face of a breach or threat.

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