Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data

There are few hotter topics these days than cyber security. Sadly, the state of affairs will probably not significantly improve in the foreseeable future. Estimates are that two new malwares proliferate every second. Even the best intrusion protection software cannot keep up with that. The reality is that no organizations are infallible, and despite your best efforts, you can and probably will get hacked.

Still, organizations must proactively do everything they possibly can to protect customer data. With new breaches in the news (and notifications in our mailboxes) so frequently, people are rightly very concerned about the security of their data. Organizations who are thought to not have taken adequate security measures become the target of lawsuits. For example, Anthem is facing multiple suits after admitting a massive breach last February.

While setting up digital protections is the realm of IT, there are many other sources of risk to customer data – such as employee negligence, being careless with physical documents, not securing file cabinets, not destroying data that is no longer needed, leaving unsecured computers accessible, malicious insiders and just plain old mistakes. An organizational culture of mindfulness about practices that may seem innocuous can go a long way toward keeping data secure. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

Our study respondents had many other data protection concerns as well: Hide my identity; Don’t track (or reveal) my location – this is a particular concern for women who may face stalking threats; Don’t use facial recognition to identify me in crowd scenes; Don’t harm me or enable harm to me by sharing my data with others who discriminate or apply bias; Don’t track health-related data and search queries; Don’t share sensitive medical and financial information. Unfortunately technologies are rapidly proliferating to do all of these things, and faster.

Just one example – At a conference last week, I heard the Chief Privacy Officer for Acxiom say that their data analytics capabilities are advanced to where they can identify by name a large percentage of the US male population who were likely to have a certain health condition that, let’s say, most would not want revealed. She had to call foul and was able to stop the general availability of these lists for purchase.

Clearly there are many facets to data concerns and data protection. Get your own house in order. Ingrain this into the culture. And be as transparent and reassuring as you can with your customers about how seriously your organization takes this. But then there’s beyond your organization… next post.


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