Credit card information. Bank account numbers. Personal information, including ages, phone numbers and shopping habits. These are all pieces of data that businesses collect from customers every day. How they handle this information, and how they protect customer privacy, are serious issues for entrepreneurs.
The debate surrounding privacy resurfaced most recently with CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), a proposed law that calls for the sharing of certain online information between tech companies and the U.S. government. Fearing that CISPA ignores a consumer’s right to privacy, privacy advocates and technology leaders including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, launched campaigns against the bill. While it passed a House of Representatives vote, it has been effectively shut down in the Senate, where policy makers cited insufficient privacy protections.
We spoke recently with Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that aims to advance responsible data-use practices, on what business owners need to know about customer privacy and managing sensitive information.
What follows is an edited version of our exchange:
Entrepreneur: What’s the most important issue to consider when it comes to customer privacy?
Polonetsky: Transparency. Most consumers will be OK with how their data is used if they feel that it is being used for their benefit. When consumers think that their information is being used against them, they push back.