In today’s data-driven world, small businesses often find themselves in possession of sensitive customer data. As the collection of data increases, customers grow more suspicious of the means and methods used to collect and store data. In response to this growing concern, we are seeing increased legislation pertaining to the collection, storage, and distribution of data. Laws like the California Consumer Protection Act continue to be enacted throughout the country, putting pressure on businesses to ensure that their practices comply. Failure to adhere to customer data standards and current legislation can result in a loss of goodwill and hefty fines. Here are a few ways you can protect the customer data your business collects.
1. Create Clear Systems for Data Collection, Storage, Distribution, and Deletion. The most important thing you can do to protect your customers’ data is to develop clear systems that outline the following steps:
what data you collect
how you collect the data
where the data is stored
who you share the information with
how you delete the data when you are no longer using it
One common practice for developing these systems is data mapping. Data mapping identifies how data moves through your business. Remember that “data” is a broad term. It can include everything from customers’ names to their IP addresses and everything in between. Additionally, it is essential to outline policies and procedures for employees who handle customer data on company devices like cell phones and laptops.
2. Utilize Strong Passwords. Using strong passwords makes it more difficult for hackers to break into your system and steal your customers’ confidential information. A strong password usually consists of a long combination of characters—letters, numbers, and symbols—in random or unique order.
3. Maintain Proper Firewalls. To maintain your security standards, it is critical to continuously update the firewalls and antivirus software used on your devices. Because of the rapid rate at which technology develops and becomes outdated, a company must diligently maintain its security systems to ensure maximum protection of the data it handles.
4. Encrypt the Data You Collect. Data encryption should be standard practice. A business must ensure that the mediums used to exchange information have encryption capabilities. Although many digital communication providers include data encryption, it is not yet implemented across the board. As a result, it is important to ensure that the software and tools used in your business are fully equipped with data encryption technology.