Recently, there has been an advertisement running during March Madness from Apple that is all about privacy. If your household has been watching as much college basketball as mine has, then you’ve likely seen it. It’s a minute full of real-world examples of how people value their personal privacy. None of those examples are particularly significant but, in the aggregate, it shows that this remains an issue that people are deeply concerned about. That concern, of course, is then applied to technology. In the ad, it is an iPhone. In your business, it is your e-mail server, your website, your social media presence and the computer and phones your business uses to conduct its business. 

Businesses are taking in more data than ever before. In many respects, data has been commoditized and actually accrues more value than more traditional assets. People – your customers – are aware of the data harvesting and are reacting with distrust. Recently, two surveys have come out showing that people are more suspicious about their privacy than most think. In fact, only 41% of U.S. consumers trust firms to protect their data (according to The Digital Society Index 2019: Human Needs in a Digital World, by Dentsu Aegis Network). At this point it may be difficult to identify any Americans who have not received a written notification that their personally identifiable information has been accessed by an unauthorized party, so it is easy to see where the distrust stems from. 

More troubling, 75% of U.S. consumers would stop doing business with a firm that misused their data. There are strict statutes and regulations that govern what information can be collected, how it can be collected and how it can be used. A simple misuse, such as sending a mass marketing e-mail to a recipient without their consent, can possibly turn a customer off completely and at worst be a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Companies don’t just have to worry about their customers’ information, they also have to be cognizant of the volume of employee information they maintain. Companies are required to hold onto an assortment of information in order to comply with various regulations and to ensure that business operations are conducted smoothly, and employees are paid on time. As the workforce ages and millennials are poised to be the majority of all employees, it is important to recognize that millennials comprise the generation that is most cognizant of their digital footprint and most wary about corporate use of their personal information.

A company that wants to engender trust with its customers and employees needs to understand the sensitivity surrounding privacy and take concrete steps to strengthen their security posture. Because when it comes to your business, your customers and your employees, the title of the Apple ad gives us all you need to know – “privacy matters.”

If you have questions, please contact David T. Shafer – an attorney in PilieroMazza’sCybersecurity & Data Privacy Group. Mr. Shafer can be reached at [email protected] or at 202.857.1000.