Protect Yourself; Define Your Information Privacy Strategy
By Betsy Burton
I have been having a lot of conversations with vendors, end-users and consumers about data privacy and ethics. Many are feeling the gradual erosion of privacy while also feeling the tug of the benefits and perks of supporting customer experience management.
The challenge is, the technology is evolving faster than the privacy and security regulatory bodies can keep up. Further, most organizations and people are just collecting, exchanging, and sharing information without stopping and thinking about what they are doing.
In this blog, I explore how we as individuals and businesses can make conscious decisions about how much information we want to be shared.
Define Your Customer Information Usage Strategy
Every business using customer information must have an information collection, analytics/usage, and sharing strategy. This strategy needs to outline what information the organization should and should not collect, analyze, and share to support the business strategy. And, this customer information strategy should be clearly communicated internally and with customers.
The most significant problem is that less than 30% of organizations even have a clearly articulated business strategy, let alone a clearly defined information strategy. As a result, given that the cost of collecting and analyzing information has dramatically decreased, they collect significantly more data than needed. And, without a strategy, they opportunistically analyze and share information, often without any consideration of ethical and civil liberties.
Define Your Information Providing/Sharing Strategy
It is a given that governments and businesses are collecting and analyzing more and more of your information/data every year. The problem is that most businesses and individuals are often blindly giving away and sharing information, and randomly opting-in or -out of information-sharing agreements.
Every individual and business providing and sharing information must also have an information collection, analytics/usage, and sharing strategy. Making conscious decisions about what types of information you want to share and with whom can be used to guide what types of businesses you are willing to work with or not.
The only way individuals and businesses can ever expect to protect their privacy and civil liberties is if they make conscious decisions about how much they want to share and with whom.
Create an Information Strategy Framework
Individuals and businesses that are using and providing information should define an information strategy framework based on: 1) the degree of trust and reputation, 2) type of information, 3) granularity of information, and 4) how information is gathered.
For example, a large shipping organization working with other large businesses might collect and analyze massive amounts of shipment tracking, conditions, and load information in order to offer their customers with optimized shipping services, given a highly trusted business relationship. On the other hand, a business or individual might be fine with a transactional retailer tracking anonymous information regarding purchases for trends, but not want detailed personalized or targeted collection of information.
Develop Privacy, Civil Liberties, and Ethics Roles
We are increasingly seeing organizations making some efforts to define roles within their organization to help them make ethical calls (Digital Business Transformation Will Drive the Need for Digital Ethicist). In fact, this week Facebook announced plans to create a semi-independent 40 person committee to make rulings on content that are counter company policy. This is primarily a PR move by Facebook, that may impact a few high-profile content ads/postings.
The problem is that ethical issues are most often not a big obvious ethical dilemma that can be considered in isolation; they are often a series of small ethical decisions that may be in an ethical grey area that then lead to a big impact.
Organizations collecting, analyzing, and sharing information need an independent, continuous and embedded digital ethicist or civil liberties role that is an available resource for executives, leaders, and developers alike.
Individuals and businesses providing information must strategically determine what information they are willing to share and with whom, or risk just making random tactical decisions or defaulting to opting-in to total information sharing.
Businesses collecting, analyzing, and sharing information must define and communicate their customer information strategy, or risk their reputation and differentiation as their most critical customers become more information savvy.