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Data Privacy vs. Data Security: Are You Protecting Your Data?

When it comes to handling data, it’s important to protect yourself as a business as well as the customers and clients you serve. The best ways to do this are to honor your customers’ trust and protect yourself against a data breach. 

To the untrained reader, it might seem as though data privacy vs. data security are the same thing. The opposite is true. They work together and have distinctly separate purposes and require specialized procedures.

Data privacy is concerned with what data you collect, how you collect it, and what you do with it. Data security is concerned with keeping that data that you collect safe from internal users and outside hackers.

This article will not only cover the differences and purposes of data privacy vs. data security but also some tips for executing both. 

What is Data Privacy?

Data privacy focuses on the customer. When evaluating whether you are honoring your customers’ and clients’ privacy, consider the following concerns they might have:

  • What personal information are you asking me to release?
  • Do I have the option to choose what personal information I release and when?
  • Who has access to my personal information and for how long?
  • Is my personal information sold for profit?

If you use, handle, process, collect, retain, delete, and/or store customer data, you need to be vigilant regarding data privacy. All of these processes should respect the individual rights of your customers and their personal information. 

If the above applies to you, then you need to comply with the governing regulations specific to your industry and customer-base.

Tips for Developing and Upholding Data Privacy Procedures

  • Contracts and policies – Data governance best practices suggest that you and/or a team within your business develop set processes and procedures for handling customer data. Each department within the business—from sales to marketing to customer service—needs to agree to and abide by the rules and regulations set within your own business regarding data access, usage, and maintenance. 
  • Governing regulation – Depending on your industry and clientele, you might be subject to specific, legal regulations based on who your customers are and what data you’re collecting from them. Below are some regulations and guidelines that may or may not apply to you and your business:

Failure to comply with the appropriate regulations and guidelines could result in hefty fines and could ultimately cost your customers’ trust.

  • Third-party management – If you have (and you probably do) third-party vendors assisting with your data management, the above regulations, policies, and procedures need to extend to them. More importantly, you need to make sure you are only conducting business with legitimate, reliable, trustworthy vendors when it comes to utilizing your customer data.

What is Data Security?

Data security helps the customers and the business itself. While data privacy is concerned with what data you collect, when you collect it, where you keep it, and how you use it, data security ensures that it is in fact only authorized persons handling that data. 

When customers and clients give you permission to have, use, and store their personal information, they trust that it will stay with you. In the case of a data breach, an outside entity accesses that personal information without permission. This is a breach of security between you and the outside entity as well as a breach of trust between you and your customers and clients. 

It is important to secure data to combat unauthorized access, attacks, and exploitation both internal and external. Compromising security could cost you customers and sales to your competition.  

Risk Assessment

Identifying possible hazards, damage, and loss scenarios is the first step of creating a risk assessment plan. Second, you must plan ways to prevent the risk. Last, you should determine processes and procedures for handling these risk scenarios if they occur despite your best data loss prevention efforts.

Not all risks can be avoided, and not all necessarily should be. Risk assessment requires that you consider the value of your asset compared to how much it costs to protect it. This evaluation determines what risks you are willing to take and which you aren’t. 

Risk assessment + risk acceptance criteria = risk treatment plan

Risk acceptance criteria are the factors analyzed to determine acceptable versus non-acceptable risks. One way to distinguish between an acceptable and non-acceptable risk would be to evaluate the cost, time, and effort of preventing and handling a scenario that is statistically less likely to happen than another. You can also evaluate the scale of the consequences of one risk against another.

Focus your resources on preventing and handling risks that are most likely to occur as well as those that could result in more costly consequences. 

Main Threats to Data Security

There are many different types of threats to data security both intentional and circumstantial. Here are a few examples:

  • Technical Errors – Incorrect data, gaps in data, and outdated data can harm your business. Bad data slows processes, costs time and money to fix, and decreases revenue and profit by negatively affecting the customers’ experience and your relationship with them. Use batch append services and APIs to help minimize technical errors and clean your data regularly to avoid costly issues. 
  • External Threats – Data breaches, attacks, theft, and unauthorized access can come from anyone outside of your business attempting to access your data for their own gain. You’ll find some data protection tips below to help mitigate these risks.
  • Internal Threats – Theft and unauthorized access can also happen from within your business. Nonexistent, improper, or broken procedures within your business can result in the unethical use of data, compromised data, and lost data. To help protect yourself from internal threats, make sure you have a data governance team that creates and enforces data handling processes and procedures.

How Can I Protect My Company Data?

  • Update software – Computer software quickly becomes outdated as new discoveries and advancements are constant. Running the most up-to-date software helps avoid bugs and flaws that might leave you vulnerable to a breach, leak, or attack. 
  • Use passwords – Use long, strong passwords across your business. Change these passwords regularly, too. Passwords protect databases, company data, and customer data. This helps keep unauthorized users out, regulate who has access to the data, and track data usage.
  • Encrypt data – When you encrypt data, you put a lock on it that requires a key to access. A password helps keep hackers out, but if they get in, encryption ensures that the data doesn’t make sense unless it’s unlocked.
  • Backup data – Backing up data helps protect you from technical issues. If a system fails or computers are lost, stolen, or damaged, having one or two backups of that data could save you a lot of time and money.
  • Educate and train employees – Data governance requires that all parties involved with company data agree to abide by a set of policies and procedures regarding data handling, usage, storage, etc. Part of the data governance process is making sure all stakeholders are trained and educated. A data stakeholder is anyone who affects or is affected by the data in question. Each stakeholder needs to know what actions are allowed, what actions are prohibited, what to do when things go wrong, and what the consequences are for not complying.

Putting it All Together

Threats to data privacy and security can come from almost anywhere. To protect yourself and your customers, be aware, create a plan, and get all stakeholders on board. As long as your data handling processes and procedures are safe, secure, and compliant, you’re well on your way to effectively protecting that data.

Think less of data privacy vs. data security and more of data privacy PLUS data security. You can have data privacy without data security, but you should exercise both. Data privacy and data security together equals effective data protection: for your benefit and the benefit of your customers and clients.