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How to Protect your Customers' Personal Data

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 12 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Customers Personal Data Protection

The instances of lost customer data that have been reported over the past few years has bought into sharp relief the responsibility that all enterprises have when dealing with personal data protection, and the issue of identity theft.

Developing high levels of security within your online business is now of paramount importance as increasingly, customers are choosing the businesses they buy from based on the personal data protection on offer, and how robust an enterprises systems are when it comes to protecting them against identity theft.

Knowing your Customers

For an online business the added security fears of credit card fraud and electronic identity theft have to be addressed. Your customers are aware of the risks they face when shopping online. Your business needs detailed information about its customers in order to provide high levels of service, but you must factor into your systems processes that keep that highly sensitive data safe.

Data Protection Legislation

The key piece of legislation your business must be aware of is the Data Protection Act. This governs how organisations can collect, store and use the personal details of customers that are held electronically on databases. It’s also a good idea to ensure your business is fully compliant with the privacy legislation and how this impacts on your customers, personal data security, and of course identity theft.

Personal Data Protection Checklist

The security of your customers personal data is crucial to ensure your business gains the trust of its customers. Use the checklist below to help you develop a personal data protection policy to keep your customers safe from identity theft.

Collect Only what you Need
It is very easy to collect masses of data about your customers. Ask yourself what is the minimum amount of data that you actually need to be able to efficiently operate your business. Try not to collect personal information about your customers you don’t need. The more data you have, the more serious a security breech would be.

Comply with the Law
The Data Protection Act is now well established. Even the smallest enterprise my comply with its main directives. If you are unsure if your business needs to register take expert advice. If you fail to register you could face a fine, but more importantly, your business’s reputation as a safe haven when it comes to personal data protection could be irrevocably damaged.

Secure your Systems
As your business collects the personal data from its customers think carefully about how your enterprise will hold this electronic information. Are your systems protected with adequate security measures such as firewalls? Also, look closely at how the personal data of your customers is used across your business. Is this secure? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do you share personal data with any commercial partners? If so, are their systems secure and robust enough to ensure complete personal data protection and can they combat identity theft?

Backup Personal Data
The personal data protection of your customers extends to how your business approaches its overall data management. Don’t forget, the personal information you collect about your customers is the life blood of your business. Ensuring this data is backed up and safe from any interruptions such as natural disasters is important as recreating that data could prove to be impossible.

Data Disposal
Stories in the news about computers being sold on ebay still containing thousands of pieces of customer data don’t instil confidence in the public. Part of your business’s data protection policy should include how you dispose of obsolete computers and any other devices that could hold the personal data of your customers. External hard drives, USB keys and even old floppy disks should all be checked and disposed of properly once their data has be completely erased.

The personal data security policy you develop within your business not only ensures your customers’ identity is safe, your security policy can also give your enterprise a commercial advantage as well. If your business can show that it takes personal data security seriously, this will make it stand out from the crowd and ultimately attract more customers.

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