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Clever companies, such as Apple, have already begun to set themselves apart by not using customer data for tracking or marketing, but only for improving their products and services.
There are several initiatives that highlight the value of privacy and aim to build consumers’ understanding of the concept and highlight the importance of the issue. And it has already been proven that customers are quick to turn away from a company who handles their private data carelessly. The customer might be ok with the idea of getting tracked to get service and even more targeted messages from the company they are a customer of, but they might quickly turn tail if that company became target of a security breach and their data was leaked to online criminals.
Privacy has become a topic of general interest, and certainly there are a lot of news when companies have broken the rules of customer privacy. However, security advisor Sean Sullivan from F-Secure Labs said in an article in the Guardian:
Most of the negative privacy stories are actually about security, suggesting that companies be highlighted for maintaining “an appropriate balance in favor of the customer”.
Therefore, at the core of privacy, in addition to handling customers with respect, there is always also security. Any critical customer data that needs to be collected needs to be kept absolutely safe. External parties should not get access to it at any point, and internal processes must be built so that data is handled according to agreed processes and with utmost care. According to Sean Sullivan, companies would also be wise to evaluate what data they actually need to collect:
Companies should be a bit more wary … collecting customer data might not be a violation of your customer relationship, but losing control of that data to a hacker definitely is. You can’t lose control over what you don’t collect, so be conservative and limit what you collect to what you really need.
In addition to the right security solutions, this calls for good security processes and training of personnel – for example, a recent experiment in the UK proved that people are shockingly unaware of the dangers of public WiFi. The importance of training is further enhanced by the fact that personal data has become an increasingly sought after target of cybercrime. Not to mention the fact of the upcoming Data Protection Regulation of the EU, which will bring legal consequences to companies not able to safeguard their customers’ private data.