Do Not Enter! Impregnable Reasons Privacy Matters in Business

Privacy matters
Privacy matters
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In today’s increasingly online world, where everything we do seems to require users to provide personal information, from email to phone numbers, privacy matters to users. That means companies need not only to promise they’ll protect users’ privacy, but they also need to do everything possible to keep that promise. Thanks to advancements in technology, as well as safety concerns, it feels as if not only friends learn everything about you, but your personal details are only a click away to dark actors who have very unsavory plans for the data they collect.

While it may seem like users no longer care about privacy, given they compulsively share every moment with an increasingly diverse set of connections through Tweets, Instagram pics, and Facebook shares, attitudes toward privacy actually haven’t changed must. It’s the ubiquitousness of data collection that increases consumer sensitivity to issues of privacy.

Businesses recognize this need for privacy and commonly produce extensive privacy policies. Often, users must accept these policies either overtly by checking a box, or tacitly by continuing to use the platform. Yet, how many users take the time to read these policies that often extend to many pages. Even if a user takes the time to read the policy, most contain legalese that almost no one understands. Moreover, a privacy policy is only as strong as the security, both against external bad actors and internal misuse, employed by the firm to protect your personally identifiable information (PII) anywhere that information is stored. Public breaches of PII damage the reputation of your business, leave you open to lawsuits and, possible criminal charges that might damage or even destroy your business.

Thus, because privacy matters, privacy is a basic expectation of users that is synonymous with success. The more you expose PII to those without a legitimate need for that information, the less likely your business will thrive or survive. Here are the reasons why:

Privacy and security

Online privacy is:

is the level of privacy protection an individual has while connected to the Internet. It covers the amount of online security available for personal and financial data, communications, and preferences

Notice this definition contaminates the definition of privacy with security. In studies, including ones conducted by some colleagues and me, consumers tend to conflagrate privacy and security. And, that’s for a good reason. Privacy invasion leaves a consumer open to everything from identity theft to financial problems or even embracing disclosures that threaten a user’s reputation or livelihood. But, also when disclosure of PII doesn’t result in one of these significant problems, disclosure of personal details feels like an invasion, which consumers don’t like.

In general, consumers want broad privacy control, where privacy means:

Broadly speaking, privacy is the right to be let alone, or freedom from interference or intrusion. Information privacy is the right to have some control over how your personal information is collected and used

Some sociologists go so far as to state that some level of privacy control is necessary for society to function. Without privacy, especially control over information, humans would withdraw from social interactions as a means to regain this control.

Chinks in the armor are everywhere

In many ways, entrepreneurs and bosses only have themselves to blame for data leaks. Often, the security of data stored in the cloud or onsite isn’t great, which allows hackers to bypass security protocols and gain access to data. And, every year, hackers gain more talent. Here’s a timeline of some of the most high profile data breaches in just the last 15 months:

  • Marriott – 5.2 million
  • The Dutch government – 6.9 million
  • Altheus Technologica – 81.6 million
  • Google cloud server – 200 million
  • The US Defense Information Systems Agency – unknown
  • Microsoft – 250 million
  • Facebook – 267 million

And, the list goes on, including some of the largest companies and governments.

While corporations account for major privacy breaches, users themselves create some vulnerability through the actions they take even without realizing they’ve left themselves open to a data breach.  For instance, public WIFI connections are fantastic in many respects, yet they also leave you open to attack. Most public WIFI has little or no protection, and anyone using the same WIFI with a bit of knowledge can access your information. If you insist on piggybacking off these open servers, consider plugging the holes with a VPN. A Virtual Private Network reroutes your IP address so that thieves can’t latch onto your signal and intercept your data.

Other side effects

While security is the most visible side-effect of insecure public WIFI, it isn’t the only glaring issue. Another is a reduction in operating performance with too many users consuming large amounts of bandwidth, which isn’t free. As a result, upload speeds take a hit, and that’s enough to cause customers to bounce. Alternatively, output levels fall as employees struggle to multitask. A private cloud host and WiFi connection add both an additional layer of safety and performance scalability, as well. Speed matters when the industry contains rivals who want to capitalize on your failure when you drop the ball on security and performance.

Privacy matters to consumers

The business isn’t the only one who stands to lose out if someone gains unauthorized access to your data. The biggest losers are the customers who thought you were going to keep their sensitive information safe. Suddenly, your customers are subject to fraud, and you’re the one to blame. In this scenario, it’s almost impossible to rebuild a reputation that is in tatters because consumers will never trust you again. The only option is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and that means caring about privacy as much as customers.

Consider the recent situation with Zoom. The company user base grew massively in March 2020 as the Coronavirus forced millions of workers to shelter in place, moving their operations and meetings into virtual spaces. Zoom was the tool of choice for many companies and individuals wanting a rich connection that mirrored relationships in the connected world. Unfortunately, extremely rapid growth strained the firm’s resource, highlighting privacy vulnerabilities. Privacy matters and horrified consumers found their meetings Zoombombed by unauthorized users sharing vulgar content, including pornography to minors. Others discovered leaky sharing options allowing users to share recordings to Facebook without permission of others in the meeting.

In response to negative publicity, a probe by the US Congress, and organizations that forbid use for official purposes, Zoom rushed to improve privacy controls, including training users on settings that protect their privacy, but the damage already occurred.

Privacy failures last

Hiding security and privacy failures is an extremely dangerous option. Eventually, someone discovers your breach or a disgruntled employee airs your dirty laundry to the public. Hiding the failure amplifies the negative consequences of the breach.

Today, logged conversations and social media posts mean your failure is only a click away from resurfacing even decades later. Kevin Hart, for instance, lost his opportunity to host the Oscars over a ten-year-old joke deemed unsavory. Sure, that wasn’t a data breach, but it illustrates how your failures lie just below the surface, ready to resurface at any moment.

Hence, transparency mitigates the damage, but a commitment to protecting privacy and securing PII starting at the highest levels within the company and extending throughout the corporation offers the ultimate protection.

Ensure privacy matters in your organization?

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