Customer privacy is becoming more important by the day. As our new technologies find new ways to collect our data, the protection of that data is the responsibility of the businesses collecting it. For years, we’ve seen data breaches hit the news. Last year, “Collection #1” contained more than 770 million unique email addresses. And if you subscribe to any kind of online monitoring, it seems like you receive a weekly email of another data breach. There are hackers that dedicate their waking hours to finding ways to get to your data. We all want to protect our personal data, but what do we do as business owners? Is our customer privacy receiving the same level of protection? This week, the Harvard Business Review had a good article about whether you care about privacy as much as your customers do.

The Current Situation for Businesses

As HBR points out, businesses have a variety of strategies for their customer data. While the current laws may indicate severe penalties, the actual fines are much lower. And even then, only the worst offenders are the ones paying the fines. So as a business, the question is how to balance the high costs to meet the legal requirements with your actual business model. Especially because using your customer data for targeted marketing campaigns can be so profitable these days. Even if you aren’t using your customer data in this way, your competitors likely are. The article points out that when it comes to customer privacy, many companies simply seek to “maintain a low profile” on the issue.

How to Handle Customer Privacy

The HBR offered four recommendations for businesses handling their customer privacy:

  • Privacy is as much about customer experience as it is about privacy itself;
  • Use your newfound knowledge to engage privacy actives as you explore new ways to use data;
  • Address the transparency gap that privacy actives have called out; and
  • Now is a good time to think long-term.

The first recommendation can be accomplished by reaching out to your customers and getting their feedback on your privacy policies. While we often survey our customers about our services, many do not extend those surveys to the privacy policies. It may be as simple as adding a few questions to your usual customer survey. Or you can be even more proactive and engage your customers in more direct ways. Talk to them directly. What are their customer privacy concerns?

When it comes to your privacy policy, have you considered making yours shorter and simpler? I’ve tried to simplify my own privacy policy in the past. But after reviewing it again, I’m sure there are even more ways to streamline it.

For your final consideration, the article suggests some good questions to review with your team, including

How do you want to position your company and its brand with respect to privacy over the long-term?

This type of long-term planning and thinking is an important question to ask your team. The customer privacy data we have as business owners is important. It is useful in so many ways. But it’s important to have a plan and to respect the privacy of your customers.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.