There has been a whole lot of discussion and news coming out about privacy leaks within this last year especially through the actions taken by the NSA, Facebook, and many others. The breach in privacy may not have completely disrupted the everyday lives of individuals, as they know it, but regardless of morality and legality … it’s still a breach of trust.

Your business doesn’t need to be on the level of these big organizations or companies to feel the backlash when private information is leaked (or stolen) from your website. In fact, you may be in a position which holds these customer records and may even have a thought, in the back of your mind, about how you could leverage it for business.

Stop right there.

Respecting your customer privacy is, perhaps, the most important decision you can make as a business owner due to many apparent reasons:

  • Customers trust that you won’t share valuable data with third-parties
  • Customers do not want to be spammed due to access to their contact information

Companies use a variety of methods to collect user data, including:

  • Website cookies to monitor and record sessions
  • Advertising cookies to deliver targeted promotions
  • Submission forms with any number of fields

Turn the tables and ask yourself how you would like to be treated if someone had your private information.

The Value of Trust (and Authority)

The topic in discussion, today, may be a little heavy for the normal types of posts here on but it’s one that’s worth of mention because privacy and business go hand-in-hand if you wish to build trust and authority.

Trust is earned through staying true to your word and delivering on promises. A business that cannot follow through with their product and service deliver will not earn the trust of the consumer to which they will seek business elsewhere.

Due to a low trust ranking the business will also lose authority within their industry which prevents them from achieving growth and earning a larger portion of the marketplace profits.

When a business breaks a consumer’s trust by providing private information to third-parties they are telling the consumer that they do not respect their sensitive data and hold a greater value on earning money from the passing of this information in the short-term than the long-term potential which comes as a result of building their trust.

Best Practices for Privacy

Privacy is very much a legal issue and has been extensively reported and sculpted by organizations like the FTC which frequently shares their findings and suggestions.

If you need quick overview (though you should still read their suggestions) than at least begin implementing the following best practices:

  • Know what information your business actually needs versus wants
  • Do not collect any data that you do not need to conduct business with a customer
  • Use robust security passwords, software, and services to protect from malicious attack
  • Review, revise, and publicly announce changes to your privacy policy
  • Keep open dialog for those that want to voice their opinion about privacy
  • Do a regular audit and remove any data that is unneeded from your collection
  • Conduct regular updates to your website and systems to remove exploitable architecture
  • Deny permission to those, within your business, to information they do not need
  • Avoid using collected data to communicate to customers that refused contact
  • Use a minimal amount of cookies, if possible, and have them removed rapidly after use
  • Physically protect your customer data from business intrusions (such as burglary)

A Lesson worth Learning

Any point that a customer feels they have been “duped” by your business after handing over private information is the moment when they will fight back – this can lead to smaller altercations such as negative reviews in social media or taken to a higher level through legal actions.

There is no point to build your business and allow it to fall from grace because you are over extending your reach for data. Your reputation and authority are on the line, at all times, when you choose to collect customer data – it’s your choice how to use it but ultimately it’s doing the right thing and respecting your customer privacy.