Importance of Data Privacy

The ethics around privacy, and personal data, have never been more important

Consumer data.

What it contains, how we obtain it and how we use it; these have become the defining questions for businesses and customers alike in the digital age.

Companies have access to an incredible amount of personal data which is why it is so important to ensure this data is managed compliantly, transparently and ethically.

The giants of the technology and social media world are no stranger to this fact, however it is a lesson they have learnt the hard way. Disastrous data breaches and multi-million pound fines from the ICO have made data security and privacy a top priority not only for the big tech firms but every business handling customer data.

Data security is always evolving

Now almost a year on from GDPR, how are companies faring with data compliance and consumers’ heightened awareness of their data privacy rights?

This week, messaging app WhatsApp revealed that a major security flaw in its systems had enabled cyber-criminals to install surveillance software in the platform. The software enabled hackers to access private communications and even activate the user’s camera and microphone, according to The Guardian.

While WhatsApp has patched the flaw and called it a “targeted” attack on high-profile users, it has still advised users to update their app.

The story is so alarming because it saw a breach of WhatsApp’s encryption technique. The hack reminds us that even companies with the latest security measures are susceptible to bad actors, because their methods of infiltration are constantly evolving. It is up to businesses to evolve too and continue testing and updating their data security methods.

Give customers choice and transparency

Safeguarding personal data is now the minimum expected of businesses, especially since it works in tandem with the other core tenant of data: privacy.

At its core, data privacy is about maintaining the confidentiality of an individual’s personal information. For businesses this is necessary for several legal and moral reasons. Sharing a customer’s data unknowingly with a third-party could result in spamming, targeted coercion or identity fraud.

Yet the definition of data privacy is becoming more complex and subjective as data (and its uses) multiplies. The introduction of the GDPR last May has helped to formalise the boundaries of consensual, fair data use. It has brought transparency to the forefront and given modern consumers the choice to say exactly how their data is used.

If a consumer opts in to sharing their data with an organisation, they do so with the understanding that their information is stored and used responsibly and relevantly. They also expect that data to provide something in return. Whether that is improving the usability of a service or making marketing materials more personalised, data can be harnessed in innovative ways to deliver more customer-centric experiences.

Use it for the consumer’s benefit

Earlier this month, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai penned a piece titled “Privacy Should Not Be a Luxury Good” published by The New York Times. Pichai explained the company’s approach to privacy and how data empowers its products to be more helpful for users.

Pichai said,

“To make privacy real, we give you clear, meaningful choices around your data…Google will never sell any personal information to third parties; and (that) you get to decide how your information is used.”

When used correctly, individual data empowers companies to deliver more value-added, competitive services for customers. It helps them to understand customer needs and expectations, which is something 76% of consumers expect from companies according to Salesforce.

The currency de jour in brand-consumer relationships is now trust. Companies have a duty to respect and follow the data guidelines for the sake of reputation and customer faith.

Businesses must not only implement robust data security and privacy measures, they should be continually improving these processes so they work better for customers.

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Jamie Acutt
Head of Marketing
03335 776077

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