The FCC, Congress and the Trump Administration recently reversed proposed rules curtailing internet providers from gathering and selling sensitive customer data to marketers. This new freedom that allows companies like Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink to enjoy the same data access as internet giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter has increased concern among Americans around internet privacy. What is the impact on entrepreneurs and businesses?
Here are three serious considerations:
Privacy matters to your customers.
Consumers have become increasingly connected and are constantly sharing information online. They are researching, purchasing and using online products and services, via any number of connected devices. They are also opting in to share their preferences as part of interactions on social media and search sites. All of this customer data is being collected by device manufacturers, desktop and mobile apps, internet providers and mobile operators for their own purposes or to sell to other businesses.
In many cases, consumers are happy to share information like photos, opinions and locations over Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. But, when it comes to other, often highly personal aspects of their life -- health, wealth and family -- they are more protective.
According to a recent survey conducted by my company, AnchorFree, a staggering majority of Americans -- 95 percent -- are concerned about businesses collecting and selling personal information without permission. Additionally, over 80 percent are more concerned about their online privacy and security today than a year ago.
This means that your customers are thinking about privacy when they visit your website, use your app, and purchase your products and services. What are you doing to demonstrate to your customers that their privacy is important to your company?
Privacy matters to your brand.
Most businesses today are connected to other business partners in our highly interdependent world commerce. Businesses may be using a hosted webstore, a separate email marketing provider and a different website hosting operation. All of them deploy different ways of dealing with customer’s information.
The same goes for other business partners, like affiliate marketing and associations. When businesses offer or receive customer referrals, that information is coming and going and potentially exposed and treated differently by each entity.
This distributed approach to information exposure means businesses need to think more broadly and deeply about privacy. Privacy isn’t just a few paragraphs that are buried deep in a terms and conditions of use page in your website. Privacy is embedded in everyday interactions with customers. Privacy is something that can impact a brand, disrupt the customer experience and potentially damage a company’s reputation.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, 72 percent of Americans are reluctant to share information with businesses because they “just want to maintain [their] privacy.” And Deloitte, as a part of a study about consumer trust and data protection, explains that data privacy and security is not just a risk management issue, but a “potential source of competitive advantage that may be a central component of brand-building and corporate reputation.”
Privacy should be a product issue, not just a policy issue. Protecting user privacy will enable you to drive more revenue and gain more customers.
Privacy matters to the growth of your business.
Safeguarding customer privacy is more than a protective measure; it is also a strategic opportunity for brand growth and a potential business opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs, as well as large companies.
Now that the Administration and Congress are clearing the way for ISPs to collect and sell customer information, more than half of Americans are saying they will investigate additional ways to safeguard their personal information, according to the survey.
Much of that concern may stem from the increased number of connected technology devices that contain personal information. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected devices -- everything from phones to new household devices swept into the internet of things market -- will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020.
This increase in connected devices, combined with the increasing consumer concern around security and privacy breaches, will further drive the already substantial market opportunity around privacy. While the previous billion-user companies like Google and Facebook have been built on collecting data, it’s projected that the next billion user companies are going to be built around protecting user data.
Entrepreneurs and startups have an opportunity to build new business as a result of this emerging reorientation around privacy and trust. Business opportunities will surface around privacy platforms and services for businesses and consumers.
Demonstrate your commitment to customer privacy.
To show that your business takes privacy seriously, provide customers with tips on safeguarding their own privacy when conducting business, such as:
- Change passwords often and use complex passwords.
- Use two-step authentication for critical logins like financial or health data.
- Check privacy settings on key apps.
- Integrate VPN for privacy protection right into your app.
These steps and considerations will go a long way in protecting customers’ privacy as well as protecting your business.