Common business knowledge says that the more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them. While this may be true from a service and marketing angle, when it comes to cybersecurity threats, what you choose to gather may come back to bite you in the event of a data breach. Let’s take a look at a few of the downsides of collecting too much personal data from your customers and how you can protect them as well as yourself.
You Can’t Leak What’s Not There
Have you ever been asked to fill out a questionnaire or piece of paperwork, and you immediately feel uncomfortable with the amount of information requested? Addresses, personal phone numbers, or sensitive identifying codes can feel like an invasion of privacy. Well, you shouldn’t feel odd about feeling uncomfortable. Data breaches happen to companies of all sizes these days, meaning that the data you give your favorite big-box store today could potentially be used against you tomorrow. While you can choose what data to provide to businesses, you can also protect your customers from the adverse impact of a potential data leak by reducing the amount of data you request and store.
If You Truly Don’t Need It, Don’t Ask For It
Your customers trust you. This is the reason why they feel comfortable enough with handing over sensitive personal data. However, if you’re collecting this data for the sake of having it, you may be doing your customers a disservice by putting them at risk in the event of a data breach. However, if you simply don’t ask for it, you limit the amount of risk presented by holding onto said data. Not only will your customers feel more at ease about continuing to do business with you and answer your questions, but you also don’t have to allot as many resources to protecting their data from cyberthreats.
Don’t Hold Onto Data You’re No Longer Using
As long as you hold onto sensitive customer data, you are responsible for it. Even if this person is no longer your customer or the data is no longer relevant, you still a responsibility to store it securely. Not only is storing this sensitive data a grossly inefficient use of your systems, but you will still be held responsible in the event of a data breach. Continuing to hold onto sensitive data that no longer serves a purpose for your business is much like a very high stakes game of hot potato in which the holder also has to make sure the potato is not eaten by someone else.
Establish Data Criteria Protocols
Your current data collection protocol may not be based on firm strategy. You may not even have an established data protection protocol. To protect your customers as well as your business from the devastating effects of a data breach, it pays to develop a data collection strategy. This plan should determine what customer data is absolutely necessary to the business and what is superfluous. This protocol should ban the collection of unnecessary sensitive data. If confidential information is deemed appropriate for collection, the conditions for the destruction of such data after a specific time should also be determined. It is important to remember that there are certain forms of data and records that a business is required by law to keep for a certain period.
Educate Your Customers On Your Efforts
If you request sensitive data from your customers, it is essential to inform them as to why such information is necessary. It is also a good business practice to ensure that their data is secure as well as to the existence of any data destruction protocol that the sensitive data falls under.