As businesses conduct more and more transactions online, customers are entrusting them with greater amounts of personal data. This has made data security increasingly important to both businesses and customers. According to a 2022 Consumer Privacy Survey by Cisco, over 80% of customers consider data handling when making purchase decisions. This demand is being reflected in countries' laws, resulting in an increase in regulations designed to protect personally identifying information (PII). Sensitive Personal Information (SPI) includes any information that can be used to identify an individual, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and biometric information.
With this rise in data collection and increased scrutiny around how data is handled, it's more important than ever for companies to be aware of the importance of protecting their customers' personal information and to understand how to handle this data responsibly. We will explain why securing PII is so important, best practices for preventing data leaks, and some of the safeguards used by various companies to keep customers' data secure.
There are several reasons why protecting customers' personal data is critical. First and foremost, it's the right thing to do. Customers trust companies with their personal information, and it's the company's responsibility to protect that information to maintain their users' trust.
Additionally, data breaches that expose customers' PII can have serious consequences for both the company and its affected customers. In the event of a breach, sensitive information like Social Security numbers, credit card information, and other PII can be stolen and used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities. This can result in significant financial losses for customers, as well as reputational damage and legal liability for the company. According to IBM's 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average total cost of a data breach worldwide is $4.35 million. This is the result of a wide range of factors, including legal costs, loss of brand equity, customer turnover, and technical activities to contain the breach.
Moreover, many countries have implemented strict data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. These regulations apply not only to businesses located in Europe and California but also to those that collect or process data from users in those regions. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations can face significant fines and legal consequences.
To meet increasingly high user expectations around data handling and comply with regulations governing the use of PII, businesses should take the following steps:
To mitigate the risk of a data breach, protecting customer personal data is not only a moral responsibility but also a fundamental requirement for long-term business success, especially as customers and regulators demand greater data security. Recent months have shown that even the most trusted and secure companies are vulnerable to data breaches that expose customers' personal information. While no company is immune to data breaches, implementing the following three guidelines can significantly reduce the risk:
By ensuring that your data is more difficult to access and limiting what can be gained from overcoming the safeguards you’ve put into place, you can reduce the chances of attackers targeting your company. Following these guidelines can help companies maintain their customers' trust and protect their personal information.