Florida, USA — Over the last decade, data leaks and breaches have become increasingly predominant. Every other week, there’re headlines about major data leaks across every sector. Hackers now target businesses, both big and small, to acquire sensitive information.
In some other cases, the data leak is a result of negligence or carelessness on the part of the company. As a business, you definitely collect important information from your customers that is important. This implies that they trust you to protect their information.
A report showed that 79% of consumers are concerned about data security — and rightly so. Also, you’re legally and morally obligated to protect the data that you collect. Protecting your customers’ privacy isn’t a difficult task.
As a business, you have more control over protecting your customers’ data than you think. With the right plan and practices, it is easy to manage this data and keep the hackers out of your business. This article discusses the best practices to protect your customer’s privacy.
Best practices to help protect customer’s privacy
Businesses are always at risk of cyber attacks. A 2019 report by Ponemon into cybersecurity for global small and medium-sized businesses revealed that 72% had experienced at least one cyberattack in the past 12 months.
Customers are entrusting your business with their sensitive information and expect you to be 100% invested in protecting these data. Below are some practices businesses can implement towards protecting customer privacy.
- Organize your data
The first step in protecting your customers’ privacy as a business owner is sorting and organizing the consumer data you collect. This data organization makes it easy to navigate a long list of data easily. It also helps in assigning risk levels to data.
This way, your business is aware of the level of security each data collected needs. Data collected from consumers can be broadly classified into three (3) groups:
- Data with low sensitivity. Data within this group are those that the general public can access, use, or share. An example is information posted on a public website.
- Data with medium sensitivity. This is data that can be shared only within the ranks of your business but not with the public. Such data leaks do not have serious repercussions.
- Data with high sensitivity is limited to the consumer and a limited amount of staff in your organization. Exposure to these data could carry serious consequences.
Organization gives clarity into which data needs to be prioritized for protection.
- Limit access to customer information
Every staff within an organization should be conscious of consumer data protection. However, not everyone should be privy to every information collected. That is why it is essential to organize every piece of information collected from the consumers. This way, access to information can be limited to only the staff that requires them.
Limiting access to consumer data enables accountability and reduces data leaks or breaches due to human negligence or mistakes. The fewer the number of staff with access to sensitive data, the lower the risk of a data leak or breach. Access must be given on a need-to-know basis.
Some ways to limit access include using password protection for different hierarchies of staff (i.e. only authorized staff can access certain information). Also, leveraging two-factor authentication to reduce the risk of compromised passwords for unauthorized users while trying to access data.
- Collect only necessary data and eliminate the ones no longer needed
Data that you do not possess cannot hurt you. Only collect information that is required to provide your service to consumers. Have a clear understanding of what data your business is collecting, its specific use, where it’s being stored, and whether it’s being shared with any third parties.
Only collecting essential data can also boost consumer confidence. When the data being collected doesn’t seem necessary to the consumer, they might become skeptical about choosing to patronize your company.
To ascertain what data is essential to your business, periodically audit every piece of data collected and determine whether or not collecting such data would harm your business in any way. This exercise should be carried out at least twice a year because, over time, unnecessary data would be collected and accumulated without realizing it.
Also, delete every piece of data no longer needed by your business. This way there’s nothing available to hackers if/when they come knocking. Leaving data that is no longer useful to the business on your servers and computers just opens up the possibilities for exposure.
Instead of leaving sensitive data such as personally identifiable information or personal health information on your servers, delete and override them once they are no longer of use to your company. To this end, it’s advisable to build a system that automatically eliminates useless data and expired files.
Consent management informs consumers of how your business collects and uses data and provides them with the opportunity to consent or refuse such use. This can be a process, system, policy, or set of policies, and compliant consent management generally consists of implementing more than one best practice.
This information includes those collected online or offline, or when they visit your website online to browse, obtain information, or conduct a transaction. The key to a consent management framework is ensuring compliance with existing data privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
There are many tools available online to help businesses craft privacy policies and assist with consent management. For example, you can use Osano for your consent management. With a single line of code, you’re compliant with the data privacy laws of 50+ countries. Most consumers don’t go through privacy policies. To this end, you can present a summary of these policies to customers at the point where their information is to be collected.
- Comply with data protection laws
There are specific laws that mandate businesses to protect consumer privacy. GDPR obligates companies to make significant changes to their data protection and privacy practices to comply or face potentially massive fines. If your company collects, uses, or stores personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where it’s processed, you’re subjected to this law.
If your company is in California or retrieving data from California residents, you are subject to the CCPA. Non-compliance may result in large fines if you do not adhere to the guidelines set for the collection and protection of data per the CCPA.
The GDPR and the CCPA are the two of the most well-known regulations, but at least 25 states have data protection laws that also directly affect privately and publicly owned firms. Your company’s cybersecurity plan needs to comply with these regulations, especially in areas that are impacted by new consumer privacy acts.
Being compliant helps the company avoid large fines. Also, it informs consumers that the business is cybersecurity conscious and actively works to protect their data and privacy.
- Regular updates
Your cybersecurity plan should not be static. Hackers are constantly evolving in the way they attack businesses to steal their data. You must stay up to date with your cybersecurity systems.
This is because older systems are easier to infiltrate. Therefore, regular updates go a long way in protecting consumer data from viruses, malware, and hackers.
- Encrypt consumer data
Encryption is the process of encoding sensitive data to render it unreadable and inaccessible to anyone else except intended and authorized parties. In addition, it plays an essential role in protecting your customers’ data.
It takes plain text, like a text message or email password, and converts it to an unreadable format called a cipher text. This helps secure the content of digital data either stored on computer servers or transmitted through the Internet.
By encrypting work computers, hard drives, and servers, businesses ensure that no matter how a device is booted up, third parties would be denied access to the data stored on it without a decryption key. You can consider obtaining an SSL Certificate to establish an encrypted link between your website and a client’s browser.
- Educate your staff
Every staff in an organization should be made to take refresher courses on data security. This ensures that they are alert, updated, and security conscious in their daily activities.
It also helps to educate them on how to identify data security risks, malware, and hacking attempts. In addition, it removes the excuse of ignorance and allows for complete accountability in cases of a data breach due to human error.
No matter how secure and tight your cybersecurity plans are, there’s always a risk of data exposure or breach. You must invest in customer data backups to prevent permanent data loss.
This can be automated on some cloud systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other forms like tape storage, disc storage, or hard drives. Backups should be done regularly, advisably daily. This way, even if there’s a data loss, it is limited to data collected that day.
Consumers want to sleep at night with the confidence that the data shared with your business is secure. Implement these practices into your cybersecurity effort to better protect customers’ privacy.
Lydia Iseh is a writer with years of experience in writing SEO content that provides value to the reader. As someone who believes in the power of SEO to transform businesses, she enjoys being part of the process that helps websites rank high on search engines.
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Name: Hendrick James
City & Country: Florida, USA