The concept of data protection has traditionally been seen as something for the IT department of your business to worry about, something to with risk management that quite often seems to get in the way of customer service and user experience.
However, with the changing regulatory landscape in relation to data protection, this is now something that everyone in your business needs to understand – whatever sector you’re working in and whether your business is large or small.
What is data protection?
With the systems and processes that you are no doubt using within your business, it’s likely that you are collecting data about your customers without even necessarily realizing it. As they interact with your website, your customers are sharing information with you in terms of their location, their preferences, and their identity.
Your business systems are going to be processing and storing this data. It is this type of data that is often the target of malicious third-parties who are seeking to access the personal information relating to your customers for purposes such as identity fraud or cyber-crime.
Your business obligations
New regulations being implemented by the European Union significantly increase the responsibilities of businesses for the collection and storage of customer data, and also dramatically increase the fines that can be imposed if there are any customer data breaches.
Here are a number of steps that you can take to try and improve the ability of your business to keep safe the personal information of your customers.
- Awareness: Training and education is absolutely essential. Unless you are actively talking about data protection with your employees, it will be impossible to effectively implement the data protection processes required. Appoint some data protection advocates across key parts of your business, ensure that they have the knowledge and confidence to constantly ensuring that data protection is embedded within your day-to-day business operations.
- Know your systems: You need to have clearly documented how you collect data, what data is collected, how data is processed, and how data is stored within your business. Unless you can clearly map out these different elements it will be impossible to know if you have the right processes in place to keep your customer data safe.
- Be transparent with your customers: Your customers want you to keep their data safe, they want to have confidence that you can be trusted with their personal information. Make sure that your data protection measures can be easily viewed by your customers, and clearly articulate to them what they are consenting to when they are sharing information with you.
- Risk management: You need to know what you would do if your business did suffer some sort of data breach or malicious attack. How would you know if there has been a breach? How would the breach be reported? How would you inform your customers? You need to be able to demonstrate to your customers and the regulators that you are actively prepared for any eventuality.
Data protection has evolved to become a bedrock of doing business in today’s tech-savvy and online world. Don’t risk your business by failing to have the essential data protection foundations in place.