The era of data privacy is here and bringing hotly debated, widely publicized cases of poor data stewardship to the global stage. From Meta’s European Union privacy issues and TikTok’s potential risks in the United States to increased protections for Californian consumers under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) as amended by the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), data privacy is gaining momentum as a personal and public policy issue.
However, calling data privacy a political issue or a simple matter of preference doesn’t capture how important it is to consumers. Awareness of data privacy is up across the board and consumers are demanding privacy rights, even in regions lacking protections. Consumers realize that exposed personal data has real-life consequences.
As a result, protecting customer data is more important than ever and requires business leaders to fundamentally shift their mindsets: Data privacy is a human right.
The United Nations defines human rights as those “inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.”
Data privacy as a human right is a DataGrail team core belief. It’s also a concept that should reach far beyond companies focusing on data privacy management. Companies in any industry must keep pace with the law and acknowledge consumers’ demands to respect their privacy.
It’s one thing to acknowledge data privacy as a human right or an important matter of trust between consumers and companies. What does it mean to act on that principle?
Data Privacy by (Minimalist) Design
When a house is filled with clutter, occupants may feel a sense of anxiety or chaos. Similarly, a business that regularly exceeds its own needs for data collection, processing, or storage is opening itself to increased risk and challenges — enter anxiety and chaos. An overabundance of data makes it difficult to meet compliance obligations and can result in legal issues, damaging penalties, and a loss of customer trust.
Implementing data minimization as a core privacy management principle helps companies reduce business risk and avoid fines. Only collecting the data necessary for completing business tasks makes it easier to effectively manage data privacy. This strategy uses a comprehensive view of an organization’s needs to ensure that the collection, use, and storage of data is directly proportional to those needs.
While penalties and fines are obvious financial implications of poor data privacy management, the loss of consumer trust and the costs of operating in a disorderly privacy environment also take a toll.
The implications of a strong (or weak) data privacy management program become even more apparent when collecting data in sensitive categories, including government identification, health, or financial information. Sensitive data exposes companies to a severe degree of risk if mishandled.
For example, Lehigh Valley Health Network, a major healthcare system in eastern Pennsylvania, is facing a class-action lawsuit after a ransomware attack in February 2023 resulted in the theft of sensitive patient information, including clinical photos. The photos were posted online after the health network refused to pay a ransom. The organization now possibly faces serious legal damages after failing to protect its patients’ sensitive data.
From the human perspective, the attack and subsequent publishing of this sensitive data resulted in humiliation for its victims and a loss of trust the company may never regain. Companies can proactively minimize the risk of incidents like this by adopting Privacy by Design, a concept emphasizing the integration of privacy considerations into the design and development process of products, services, and systems.
Transformation Through Transparency
Acting on the principle that data privacy is a human right requires holistic organizational alignment on the issue, instead of relegation to one siloed department. Successful data privacy management programs require an interdisciplinary approach. While legal, IT, or security teams may oversee the program, a successful approach recognizes that every department, team, and employee is a critical stakeholder in efforts to protect customer data.
Achieving stakeholder buy-in across an organization requires a degree of skill in internal relations. Understanding that every leader across marketing, product, compliance, engineering, etc. has different priorities is key. The ultimate success of the company and its customers should act as a unifying goal.
Data privacy management has unique implications for each department and specific individual responsibilities for each employee. By effectively communicating data privacy benefits to each stakeholder, leadership can better align them on the steps necessary to make the program work. This includes flagging data misuse or risk across different functions of the business.
Additionally, every executive, manager, and employee is a human with their own personal data to protect. When people understand how poor data privacy management can affect them professionally and personally, companies can build greater equity in the belief that data privacy is a human right to be proactively and vehemently protected.
A Brighter Future for Data Privacy
Avoiding risk isn’t the only message that should resonate with companies today. It’s easy to focus on the negatives in the data privacy conversation, but there are also opportunities. For example, 80% of consumers surveyed in 2022 say they’re more likely to shop with a brand that’s more transparent about its data privacy practices, while 74% wouldn’t shop at their favorite retailers if the retailer didn’t keep their personal data safe.
Companies can protect themselves and their customers from risk while also giving their brand a competitive advantage.
The connection is simple: Businesses want to make money, and consumers want to spend money with businesses they like and trust. In a highly competitive marketplace, making data privacy a core value and publicly speaking about its importance can set a brand apart and drive financial returns.
Companies that recognize data privacy as a human right and take steps to implement that principle are protecting real people: Wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, children and adults. We’re all stakeholders in the fight for data privacy protection.
To learn more about how DataGrail can help you honor data privacy as a human right, contact us.