U.S. consumers see data privacy as a human right. How should your business treat it like one?

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    Riley Leight
  • Jun 10, 2021

In today’s digital landscape, consumers don’t just want to know their information is being kept safe by the businesses they share it with—they believe doing so is a moral imperative. For enterprises that handle high quantities of personal data, that means a transparent approach to data etiquette and security is more important than ever.

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Nearly 90 percent of Americans see data privacy as a human right, but modern data etiquette often falls short of that standard. 

Data protection laws in the U.S. are being outpaced by digital transformation. The ACLU has called for modernizing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, but consumers already expect more than the law requires—which means the onus is on each organization to be accountable for, and transparent about, their data practices. 

Leaders across tech are beginning to take this responsibility more seriously, in large part because a significant breach or mishandling of data can permanently fracture consumer trust, negatively impacting a company, and its bottom line, for years to come. 

To prevent a lapse in security and show customers that you respect their right to privacy, the best data strategy is twofold: puttingproper safeguards in place, and communicating effectively with users about when, how, and why their data is being used.

Making trust and security the cornerstone of your business

Start with security in mind 

It’s wiser—and often easier—to start building with security in mind, rather than scrambling to retrofit a solution later. 

The Federal Trade Commission agrees: they encourage every business to develop a thorough understanding of potential security risks and strategies for protecting sensitive data before your product or service ever reaches the hands of a user.

There are plenty of nuances to explore, but their three key lessons for good data hygiene are simple: don’t collect information you don’t need, don’t keep it any longer than you need it, and don’t use it when it isn’t necessary. Collecting, keeping, and using as little information as possible is the most effective way to protect and respect your customers’ data.

This also makes managing and tracking information less of a headache, and greatly limits the harm of potential breaches. An effective data management tool can make this process easy with custom data streams, automated storage protocols, and privacy features to make fully-compliant security a seamlessly integrated part of your business.

Offer transparency and choice

Many customers want the kinds of personalization and improved experiences their data can help build, but providing them with the choice to opt-in and opt-out as needed lets them feel a greater sense of autonomy over how they interact with your business. 

Apple recently set a new precedent by allowing users to select whether or not the apps they download are able to track their behavior. This kind of move emphasizes that consumer choice is taking center stage in privacy. 

If you want to build that trust, it takes more than handing users a lengthy terms of service agreement. Supplemental communications should articulate your data practices in a way that’s simple, easy to understand, and covers the key points of how, when, and why you use personal information—plus the systems you have in place to keep it secure.

It’s also worth reminding users that protecting their information isn’t just on you, it’s a partnership. Consumers today are navigating far more digital security decisions than ever before, and behavioral nudges—from encouraging them to opt-in to multi-factor authentication or suggesting regular passcode changes—can help them navigate those choices, keep their information safe, and show you respect their privacy. 

Turn data into engagement opportunities

A data management system with intuitive tools to help you understand and engage with your audience can have a massive impact on trust. 

SMS and email confirmations are already commonplace for security purposes like password changes and log-ins on new devices. A variety of data security and etiquette use cases can be treated the same way. 

A simple, automated message can reiterate to users the data they’ve chosen to share, give them instructions on how to modify permissions, and notify them when it’s time for information to be deleted or updated. 

This brings consumers into the conversation on privacy, and opens new channels for them to engage openly with you about questions and concerns.

Make a plan for addressing lapses in security

Limiting the potential harm of a breach is key, but cyberattacks are increasingly common—so what do you do to protect and rebuild trust in the event that private information in your system does become compromised? 

The FTC has a full breakdown of what you should do in the immediate aftermath of a breach, which provides a useful model for any business to treat this kind of event with the urgency it deserves. But just as crucial as assessing the damage and preventing further attacks is engaging with customers about the impact a security breach will have on them.

If you’ve already explained and created trust in your security protocols, offered transparency on what information you store and why, and created channels of engagement for addressing concerns, you’ll have a far easier time providing clarity on the situation—and a far easier time rebuilding trust in the future.

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Riley Leight

Riley is a full-time writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.