I can keep a secret: I know who you are, but will not tell anyone.
We started this series discussing data governance. As we mentioned, “data governance aids organisations in upholding data quality, ensuring compliance with regulations, mitigating risks, and extracting valuable insights from data”.
In fact, one of the major risks that organisations face is ignoring data security and privacy. Businesses often handle sensitive customer information and they should implement robust security measures and comply with relevant regulations.
Here are some real-world examples of companies that faced consequences for failing to protect customer data and privacy:
Marriott - the large hotel giant revelead that hackers had gained “unauthorized access” to the Starwood reservation system since 2014, but the company only identified the issue in November 2018, potentially exposing the personal information of approximately 500 million guests. The company was hit with an £18.4 million GDPR fine for failing to secure millions of guests’ personal details.
Equifax - one of the three largest consumer credit reporting agencies in the United States, announced in September 2017 that its systems had been breached and the sensitive personal data of 148 million Americans had been compromised. As a consequence, “Equifax Inc. has agreed to pay at least $575 million, and potentially up to $700 million, as part of a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and 50 U.S. states and territories, which alleged that the credit reporting company’s failure to take reasonable steps to secure its network led to a data breach in 2017 that affected approximately 147 million people”.
Facebook - The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that in 2014 contractors and employees of Cambridge Analytica, eager to sell psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns, acquired the private Facebook data of tens of millions of users — the largest known leak in Facebook history. The FTC Imposed $5 Billion Penalty and Sweeping New Privacy Restrictions on Facebook
As data breaches have become increasingly common in recent years, these examples show that investing in data security and privacy is not just a matter of compliance; it's a smart business decision. These breaches not only damage a company’s reputation but can also result in legal consequences if they fail to comply with relevant data protection laws. By safeguarding customer data, businesses protect their reputation, ensure customer trust, and avoid the costly fallout of data breaches and legal disputes. Ignoring data security and privacy is a perilous path that can lead to severe consequences. To thrive in the digital era, large businesses must recognise the value of the data they hold and the importance of securing it.
In today's digital world, companies collect and store a wealth of customer data - from names and addresses to purchase histories, location information, credit card numbers, addresses, and personal identifiable information (PII). This data allows businesses to provide personalised services, target marketing, and gain valuable insights into consumer behavior. However, with great data comes great responsibility. Protecting customer privacy is not just an ethical obligation - it has become a business imperative and it is critically important for leaders across the organisation to make it a priority. Businesses need a multi-layered approach that combines policies, technologies, and processes to lock down data. Steps like encryption, access controls, network security monitoring, firewalls and employee training go a long way. It is also essential to vet third party vendors who may handle sensitive data. Regular security audits and penetration testing to identify potential weaknesses in the security infrastructure should also be regularly conducted.
In addition to implementing technical security measures, businesses must also adopt best practices for data protection such as employee training on data privacy and security policies, access controls, and incident response plans. These measures can help prevent unauthorised access or disclosure of customer information.
In business today, data is power, but customer trust is true power. Companies that do not take privacy seriously endanger both.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union regulation designed to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the EU. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a similar law that applies to businesses operating in California, requiring them to disclose what personal information they collect, why they collect it, and with whom they share it.