Your corporation might collect thousands of data points on your global customers, or your local business might simply maintain and regularly update an email list of your most interested buyers. Whether you fall into one of these extremes or somewhere in the middle, you’re responsible for collecting and maintaining consumer data. And these days, that data privacy matters more than ever before.
You need to understand the protocols to protect privacy. You should follow the tips listed in a digital privacy guide.
But how has this become such a vital component of your brand management strategy, and what steps can you take to improve it?
The Rising Importance of Data Privacy
There are a few motivating factors for this increased consumer need:
- Increased data collection. Data collection is much more popular, and companies are collecting more information on customers than ever before. Major tech companies are the ones collecting details about where you are at all times and your daily behavioral patterns, but even local “mom and pop” businesses are getting involved thanks to accessible digital marketing strategies that demand an understanding of your customers’ habits. With so many different brands collecting so many different pieces of information, it’s only natural to feel a little paranoid.
- Ambiguous or nonexistent laws. The legal system hasn’t quite caught up with this era of big data. The EU has taken major steps to protect consumer privacy, including the passing of “right to be forgotten” policies, but the United States is a little further behind. The laws we have to protect consumer privacy are thin and ambiguous, so it’s the responsibility of the individual organizations dealing with those consumers to make sure they’re operating ethically.
- Major breaches in the headlines. Of course, it doesn’t help that so many major data breaches have been in the headlines lately. Nationally known brands have been the victim of hacking and data breaches, from Equifax compromising the personal information of millions of consumers to Facebook getting wrapped up in a scandal with the political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. There are several secondary effects from this. For starters, consumers become more aware of the dangers of their personal information being compromised, which means they take it more seriously. Second, they become less trusting of most institutions, even the major ones that seem untouchable.
- Companies on the bandwagon. Partially in response to the above factors, many companies, including recognizable brands, are refining their consumer privacy policies and making a concentrated effort to appeal to people who care about their privacy. Collectively, these organizations are acting more responsibly, which puts pressure on similar organizations to behave similarly.
Steps to Improve Consumer Data Privacy
So what steps can you take to improve consumer privacy in your organization?
- Limit the information you collect. First, try to limit the number of data points you collect on your customers. While collecting more details about your customers could help you form better conclusions about their buying habits, they also present a greater security risk. If you don’t need the information, don’t collect it. For example, there’s rarely a reason to collect and store your customers’ social security numbers.
- Keep your consumer data secure. When you do collect consumer data, do whatever you can to keep it secure. For some businesses, that means working with reliable, credentialed third-party apps that have a great track record for keeping data secure. For others, that means implementing better encryption For all businesses, it means better training employees, so they understand the main points of vulnerability and how to guard against them. Oftentimes, major breaches are the fault of a single person who overlooked basic protocols.
- Offer multiple privacy options. When possible, offer your consumers more privacy options. If you give them the choice to keep their profile more private, or offer less information, you could make them feel safer—and demonstrate that you care about their privacy preferences.
Privacy is a nebulous area from a legal and ethical perspective, but it’s becoming increasingly important to address in an era where companies rely heavily on consumer data. Regardless of how big your business is or how many customers you have, it’s important that you keep consumer privacy at the heart of your operations.