Online Privacy Your Customers Should Reasonably Expect from You in 2017
Looking back, 2016 was probably the worst year ever in online privacy. Major security breaches, such as Yahoo, affected more than one billion accounts, leaving users worrying about their personal information. Horror stories around how the lack of privacy has led to murder, identity theft, and more have definitively planted the seeds of privacy panic.
And so today more than ever, as a business owner, you must treat your customers’ confidential information with the respect it deserves. With users and lawmakers becoming increasingly aware of, and concerned about privacy issues, businesses that do not follow best practices will suffer significant consequences. Here’s how you can demonstrate to your customers that you are committing to protecting their privacy:
Seek Explicit Permission about Exactly What Data You Intend to Collect
The first step towards developing trust with your customers is full disclosure. Your customers must know what data you will collect, how much of it you will store, how will it be secured, and who will have access to it. Also, customers should feel that they are in control of this data collection, and should specifically agree to your data collection policy.
Collect Only What Is Required
Be Careful with Logged Data
Even if you do not specifically set out to collect customer data, your technology will log a lot of personal information. Your web servers will store customers’ IP addresses, device information, locations, browsers, and more. In addition, you might be able to see the web page they were on before they visited you, or the search query they used to reach you. Regularly purging all such data is the best approach. But if this information is stored perpetually, or even for prolonged periods, you must make full disclosure to customers, and tell them why you feel the need to maintain this information.
Be Extra Careful if You Are Sharing Customer Information with Third Parties
Customers who explicitly share their information with you expect you to use it in some way. But this doesn’t include sharing it with third parties. This is the part that makes customers the most insecure, as now there are at least two businesses that have their information. Limit your data sharing with others as much as possible. Make sure that your customers know that you are sharing their data and give them the option to deny you the right to share their information with third parties.
Keep Anonymous Social Interaction Anonymous
Sometimes customers engage with your website and assume that their interaction is anonymous. This could be in the form of providing a star rating to listed products. It would be unfair to have this seemingly anonymous data attributed to them at any point.
Allow Users to Delete Their Accounts and Data
With ever-evolving customer preferences and expectations it is important that you allow customers to change their mind. It is not a good idea to throw the rulebook at them when they contact you with privacy concerns. If customers want to delete their accounts and all associated information, let them do so. Customers will feel secure and empowered that they are making their own decisions about their personal information.