Data, Reputation and Risk

We live in a rapidly changing business environment with a constantly evolving technology landscape.For every digital solution you apply to an operational process, the result is informational output that needs to be managed in some way. With an ever-growing number of regulations telling us how we should administer information, it’s no wonder organisations are becoming increasingly anxious they may inadvertently fall foul of new laws or being enforced for mismanagement. Information governance within your organisation is therefore pivotal to legal compliance.

`An analysis of 33,000 Sony documents… found personal data… posted online… The hack at Sony Pictures disclosed information about 47,000 current and former employees and actors, including Sylvester Stallone, Judd Apatow and Rebel Wilson.` Sony Hack Exposed Personal Data of Hollywood Stars, Wall Street Journal

`Anthem Inc. stored the social security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them. That storage decision has made the… health insurer the latest poster child for a continuing debate in executive suites: is turning a corporate network into an electronic Fort Knox worth the potential cost?” Anthem’s Records Weren’t Encrypted, Wall Street Journal

As these recent news stories make clear, failure to get your security act together can result in dramatic consequences.

Data security is now top of the agenda for CEOs

Nowadays, ensuring the privacy and security of information is not just foremost in the minds of IT directors. It’s a risk factor that has become a major headache for every business executive. Information forms a significant corporate asset and failing to manage it properly equates to squandering company value and throwing away your competitive advantage.

We’ve almost become blasé about international news stories revealing another embarrassing security leak by a high profile organisation. But if it’s your company in the hot seat, it could prove to be extremely painful and expensive.

So how did we get to this state of affairs and what can be done about it?

Controlling your cookies

Virtually every organisation now has a web presence. For companies, websites offer a way to promote your products and services, as well as to gain an understanding of your customers’ needs. Tracking online behaviour has become big business.

Indeed, third party advertising and tracking firms are ubiquitous on the internet. However, although tracking what potential customers do has become essential to many organisations, it’s also something that is increasingly regulated because of privacy concerns.

Whenever someone visits a website, there’s a good chance they’ll come into contact with cookies – a small piece of code that exists simply to track and record browsing habits. For some users, this can result in a positive action such as language settings to provide a personalised experience across the internet.

Problems arise when data is collected and site owners and/or site visitors are not aware of how their information is being used. Many cookies don’t have any real connection to the website being visited and are actually owned by third party advertisers and used to track and analyse site user behaviour.

Understanding the value of data

The value of European citizens’ data is expected to reach €1 trillion by 2020. Data doesn’t respect borders, and we are seeing what can only be described as a single global digital market.

Unsurprisingly, consumers have become hostile when it comes to unwarranted trading of their personal information. This is why the placement of third party cookies has become such a critical issue. These cookies not only negatively impact on customers and visitors to your site – they can ultimately result in a loss of revenue.

In recent years, we’ve seen court cases brought against tech giants such as Google and Facebook for their management of data in Europe and worldwide. Data has become a global trade and with it comes a backlash.

Taking control of this problem has become crucial for businesses of all sizes.

Is your uncontrolled data losing you money?

In many cases, organisations are failing to regulate how suppliers are using site visitors’ data.

Our latest study reveals that even the UK’s FTSE 100 firms may not be aware of where their data is going and how third parties use it. While this is concerning for privacy, there are other serious repercussions.

Lack of awareness can result in a significant loss of revenue if a company fails to regulate what cookies their suppliers set on their website.

Instilling customer trust in your business

Your customers are your greatest asset, whatever your industry. It’s highly likely they’re regular visitors to your website and will come into contact with the cookies you have there. Therefore, organisations need to be aware of the potential impact on their reputation if customers find out their data is being used without their consent.

The European Commission claims that 9 out of 10 Europeans say they’re concerned about the collection of their data without consent, with 7 in 10 concerned about how companies may use this data.

Planned laws will make it illegal to share data with third parties without notice. Putting these legal issues to one side for the moment, companies are still breaking the trust of their customers and site users with unauthorised collection of data for distribution to third parties.

How will new regulations affect you?

For those organisations still failing to examine their data policies, regulation is likely to be the biggest potential push to encourage an audit.

The European Commission has made creating a single regulated digital market one of its highest priorities. New laws coming from the EU will update citizens’ rights to include the right to be forgotten, as well as to be informed of personal data breaches.

These laws, which will be heavily enforced, will have a significant impact on how businesses use third party cookies on their websites. The proposed mechanism will allow regulators to impose fines of up to 2% of a company’s annual worldwide turnover.

In conclusion

There’s no doubt about it, in this digital age, information is big business.

Of course, harnessing the value of web activities is an essential tool in a competitive marketplace. However, it’s vital for companies to stay abreast of the growing number of laws regulating what can and can’t be done with third party information.

In addition, there’s the question of integrity. In order to build loyalty, your customers should be able to rely on you not to abuse their trust by exploiting their personal details and online activities.

On the plus side, the benefits to businesses from correct control and management of cookies on their company websites are significant. Not only do they have the peace of mind of knowing they’re complying with legal requirements, they should also see an increase in revenue from loyal clients, reassured by the fact that their personal details are not shared without their knowledge.

Don’t ignore the situation

Failing to address the growth of the digital market and its consequent output of vast amounts of data is dangerous for any organisation. Consumers are more aware than ever before of how their data can be used and abused.

How you gather, protect and manage information has become a significant factor that can determine the success or failure of your business.

If you would like to find out more about the cookies set on your website and discover who may have unwarranted access to that data, contact us via our website or email: