What to know about the growing privacy concerns businesses face and how to protect the data of your business and your customers.
As social media has grown to reach billions of people all over the globe, it has connected people and businesses in ways that were never before imagined. In this age of connection and information, people have taken to social media as a way to get their daily news, collaborate on projects, conduct research, and even apply for jobs.
Privacy concerns can be bad news for businesses.
With as much connectivity as social media and other online portals have given us, there remains an increasingly growing risk of hacking, data leaks, and privacy breaches. The latest in this series is Google being forced to shut down its social media arm Google+ because of a data privacy leak. Equifax’s massive data breach was not too far prior to Google’s with data from over 143 million customers stolen from its database.
Social media profiles collect data in two ways. The first is what users input into their profile. This information is like an online scrapbook or resume – a collection of geographical information, interests, career and education data, and more. This information eventually allowed for ads to run on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and more, because businesses were able to access where their customers were and what they liked and were able to advertise directly to the audiences that were a good match for their product or service.
The other piece of data is what users do on these social media platforms. If they engage with a certain brand, that data is collected and housed. Social media privacy policies usually tell users the terms of using their platforms – it is free to users, but advertisers who pay will have access to general data in order to get their products and services in front of relevant users. The paid data, however, isn’t linked to any particular name or profile, and so there remains privacy between the user and the business.
In 2017 and 2018, it became clear that social media platforms were struggling to keep up their privacy arrangement and actually keep user data anonymous, as well as only share what users had agreed to share.
The Facebook privacy scandal with Cambridge Analytica has revealed that over 1 million users were affected by a privacy breach and that their information was made available to unauthorized users. Many Facebook members were concerned that because they logged into many other apps and internet sites through a Facebook API, that their login information was part of the breach, or that additional sites could have access to their personal information, including phone number, address, workplace, and more This has affected Facebook users’ trust in Facebook as a media provider and Facebook stock has lost a lot of value due to public perception.
As noted earlier, Google suffered a major data breach and was forced to shut down its social site, Google+, to stem the damage to their global brand. While Google+ may not have had as many users as Facebook, their brand has just as much, if not more, equity globally and a data breach would certainly affect how customers interact with them.
What Businesses Can Learn
Lack of privacy is a continued concern for all consumers. Customers understand that some data is often necessary to do business, particularly on the internet, but they are feeling leery of giving organizations their business, particularly if it’s a business that’s been involved in a data breach or one that requires a cache of personal information, like social security numbers and credit card numbers.
Protecting customer privacy, then, needs to be a business’s number one concern. While growing profits and a customer base is always a part of any business’s strategy, it’s crucial to understand that fighting privacy breaches is key to securing both new customers and gaining existing customer loyalty.
One of the most important ways a business can be on the front lines of privacy protection is to have dedicated resources. As technology grows, businesses will become capable of more, but hackers and other data thieves will also have more resources. Having dedicated resources and a strategy to protect against a lack of customer privacy is essential. It’s also important to be forthcoming with your customers about your privacy protocols and make sure they know that it is a central part of your business model.
The world is rich with data and it can certainly be used to tell us more about our customers, which can help us create personalized messaging, better products, and more. But the most important thing to remember when handling customer data is that because it a valuable asset, it must be protected, for the sake of both your business and your customer.