Look After Personal Data As Though It Is Cash - On Data Privacy

Look After Personal Data As Though It Is Cash

Some business owners are a bit laid-back when it comes to looking after the personal data sloshing around their operations.  Would they be quite so lukewarm if they were dealing with cash?

Of course it’s all about contactless payments these days isn’t it?

You get paid online or customers waft a card over a reader and Hey Presto!  There’s a credit to the bank account.  All very neat and tidy.

It’s Different With Cash

There is a difference between electronic payments and cash.

Cash has to be counted regularly to make sure the correct amount is still there.  It needs to be checked regularly to make sure the right amount has been received in every transaction.  You don’t leave cash lying around (at least, you learn very quickly not to leave cash lying around…).  You lock cash up in cash registers throughout the day and at night you put it in a nice, big, tough metal safe with a decent locking mechanism on it.

You are careful who has access to the safe keys or combination numbers.

There is always someone who will part you from your cash if they are given the opportunity.  As a business owner or manager you are responsible for making sure the cash is properly looked after.  To the penny.

If you have ever had to spend hours after closing, counting and recounting floats and takings, searching for a lost 5p, you’ll know how much attention goes into looking after cash.

It Shouldn’t Be Different With Personal Data

Yet for many businesses, it is.

Personal data isn’t accounted for, checked, secured or locked away.  Yet, as you’ll discover shortly, there’s much more to personal data.  It is valuable to you, the implications of losing it are severe.

The main difference between cash and electronic payments is that cash allows for a completely anonymous transaction.  Electronic payment doesn’t.  At least, it doesn’t for most of us.

Which means there is one, really important point you need to understand about electronic transactions:

They all come with personal data not just wrapped around them, but wired into them.

Personal data is now an integral part of your customer transactions and payment handling.  It flows into your business before and during every single transaction.  This personal data then seeps into other parts of your business.  Where, to borrow from the cash analogy I used above, it is often left lying around, unrecognised, not accounted for and at risk of being lost or stolen.

You wouldn’t do this with cash.  Yet many business owners do it with personal data.

If you own a business or you are a director, the personal data protection buck stops with you.  You are accountable.

Just like cash, there is always somebody looking to steal personal data.  However with personal data, all they need to do is copy it.  Leaving the original untouched and available for all to see.  If you’re not paying attention you won’t even know it has been compromised.

What makes this apathetic attitude worse, is that the business doesn’t own the personal data it leaves lying around and at risk.  No.  This personal data belongs to other people, to private individuals, to your customers.

Which means some businesses effectively borrow personal data from customers as part of their daily transactions, then leaves it at risk of being lost, misused or stolen.  It’s a sort of “double debit” if you like.  When it all goes wrong, you borrowed it, you then lost it.  You’re going to have to put in twice the effort to put things right.

Just like cash, there is always somebody looking to steal personal data.  However with personal data, all they need to do is copy it.  Leaving the original untouched and available for all to see.  If you’re not paying attention you won’t even know it has been compromised.

Value The Personal Data Entrusted To You

Nowadays there is probably more personal data hanging around in a business than there is physical cash.  Yet the default behaviour of many people in business is to react swiftly to any issues involving physical cash and at the same time be lethargic or unresponsive to issues involving personal data.

Personal data has a value just as cash does.  But nowadays it comes with all sorts of responsibilities, implications and penalties which you ignore at your peril.  If you suffer a loss of cash, all you’ve lost is the cash.  If you suffer a loss of personal data belonging to your customers, you risk losing your business reputation, a financial penalty, court action, damages awards against you and probably losing those customers future purchases into the bargain.

Which means that if you don’t treat personal data in the same way as you do your cash:  Counting it; accounting for it; reporting its value; securing it; locking it up safely; restricting access to it and just not leaving it lying around – then you are storing up some difficulties for your business.

Unlike cash, personal data is sometimes hard to see.  Electronic storage means you don’t have clues as to the amount of data you are storing.  Storage drives don’t fill up,  bulge or overflow in the same way as cash register drawers, safes or filing cabinets.

If personal data was cash, you’d treat it better.  Time for a change?

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