How to Protect Your Customer’s Privacy Online

How to Protect Your Customer’s Privacy Online

The internet has provided a world of opportunity for businesses to provide services to customers. Beyond just advertising, the internet means that transactions can be completed without having to go into a store and with the ease of clicking a few buttons.

However, purchasing online means that information is collected, and this is where the lines can become blurred. When considering customer privacy concerns, just think about this: most people wouldn’t tell a stranger where they live or their bank account details, so why should this be any different for the internet? It’s not hard to see why customers take their online privacy very seriously. For your business to be trusted by customers, it must show them that their privacy will be protected. To do this, business’s must firstly, understand the myriad of ways in which data can be exploited and then implement measures to mitigate these risks.

Here we will discuss the what and how of sensitive customer information and provide some tips to not only prevent this from happening, but also instill confidence in your customers.

What kind of information can I gather from customers?

The information your website can gather on customers is dense to say the least. Websites have memories which can capture every piece of information a user enters when on a website. Perhaps you’ve noticed that a website seems to display products on its websites you’ve previously searched for, or remembers your login details. This is down to use use of cookies, which are data files that remember user information. Virtually every website that tracks user patterns use these - and it’s very likely your business’s website will use them too. The information collected can be in the form of basic personal contact information, such as email addresses, names, addresses and dates of birth. However, it can be more sensitive information such as credit card details, bank details and security numbers. This normally occurs when a customer makes a purchase from your website.

Although gathering this information is necessary for customers to use services and can improve their online shopping experience, it can be hard to guarantee that this information is secure and won’t be accessed by anyone else.

The importance of privacy policies

The majority of businesses who collect customer information online protect themselves by having a privacy policy. A privacy policy clearly informs a user of your site what information the site will collect about them and how it will be used. Ordinarily, privacy policies are displayed overtly on the homepage of a website, so the customer can be informed before any information is collected.

Although not every online business is legally required to have a privacy policy, it's recommended that businesses have one regardless. A privacy policy clearly informs a user of your site what information the site will collect about them and how it will be used. In many countries, it’s illegal not to have a privacy policy. If you’re trading overseas, a privacy policy is a must.

Have Terms of Use on your website

A website terms of use lets the user understand their obligations when using your site. This can cover things such as user behaviour, protection of your copyright and other disclaimers. Having a terms of use is not compulsory. However, having one will not only protect you, but also inspire confidence in your customers.

Inform customers if your site uses cookies

We’ve already covered what cookies are, but how do you let customers know that your site will be capturing (and remembering) information about them? Many sites have a ‘pop up’ which notifies the user of the use of cookies on the site, with an option for the user to confirm their consent by clicking ‘I agree’ to the terms. It’s also common for sites to have a clause in their privacy policy outlining how and why they use cookies. Most internet users are very familiar with being asked whether they agree to the use of cookies on the site they’re visiting, so much so that many customers will expect this notification if they’re providing information online.

Inform customers if any breaches occur

Earlier this year, the Australian government made it mandatory for certain companies to notify customers of any data breaches. Breaches occur when information is lost, hacked or compromised in some way. Although this only applies to customers who have a turnover of $3 million or more, if customer information is exploited in any way, it’s always wise to let your customers know. Breaches can take the form of hacks, viruses or phishing attacks. Businesses are a common target for criminals because the customer information they are able to retrieve is immensely valuable. A privacy lawyer can advise you on preventative methods and the course to follow if any information is exploited.

Keep your software up to date

Always make sure your systems are up to date. Software and devices are continually updated with improvements to ward of malware. However, just as anti-virus protection is continually improving, so are the tactics and systems used to exploit information. If your software or systems are out of date, they will be more vulnerable to attacks.

Protecting your customers online serves many benefits. Not only are you doing what’s best for the customer, but you’re instilling trust in your brand. Reliability is an important trait for any successful business to have - and this has become all the more important in the digital age.

About Us

LawPath is Australia’s leading provider of online legal services for businesses and individuals, providing technology powered legal solutions at a fraction of the time, cost and complexity of the traditional system.

About the Author

Jackie OllingJackie is the Content Manager at LawPath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts degree from Macquarie University and has worked in the legal industry since 2014. She's interested in legal tech, NewLaw and the opportunities it offers to not only the legal industry, but all people.

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