CYA Tips to Protect Customer Data

January 30, 2008 by  

Aside from being angry and outraged at how careless another big company (Horizon) has been with personally identifiable information, marketers must learn from this example as a reminder of how important it is to protect the data you collect on behalf of clients.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) includes: name, address, email, phone, social security number, employer number, spouse/child info, etc.

No matter how convenient it may be:

  • Do not email spreadsheets and data files with consumer information to clients or vendors. Data should be encrypted with a password and uploaded to a secure, password-protected transfer site (FTP, DataExchange, etc.)
  • Do not take home data files to work on (or email them to yourself).
  • Do not email login credentials to your clients. It’s safer to email the URL and leave a voice message with the username/password.

Whenever possible:

  • Challenge your clients when they want to collect more information than is necessary to fulfill a promotion. Example: Collecting a postal address or phone number is not necessary if the brand never intends to mail anything to the consumer or contact them by phone. ZIP Code alone is sufficient for geographic targeting.
  • Educate your clients when they ask you to do such things you know to be bad business practices. We see so much turnover on the client side; and I’ve spoken with many junior managers that don’t understand the issues and tend to be careless due to ignorance and lack of proper training.
  • Report your clients to their superior. You should never compromise best practices due to client pressure.
  • Learn about your clients privacy practices so you can work with them as an effective marketing partner, not a vendor.

Our larger clients tend to have Privacy Officers and procedural policies. But the reality is their line managers are under extreme pressure to get things done and will cut corners at times.

Please don’t be cavalier about it. A simple mistake can put a client relationship at risk and cause unrepairable harm to a brand’s reputation.


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