Privacy is important for many reasons. Privacy gives us peace of mind. It provides breathing room for the experimentation and inevitable mistakes that are necessary for learning. It allows intimacy and spontaneity. Many believe that the right to privacy is one that should be guaranteed to all people, as privacy is often viewed as a cornerstone of a fulfilling life. 

However, the dawn of the information age has rekindled debates about privacy and use of personal data. Companies across the globe use digital infrastructures to collect massive amounts of data on their users. Some data collection efforts are seen as malicious whereas others are mutually beneficial. In either case, the data collection made possible by the internet and software tools has left consumers feeling like they lack their prior level of privacy. In fact, according to the Role of Trust whitepaper, 90% of US adults feel they have lost control of their data in recent years.

Businesses that protect customer privacy are becoming more and more attractive. Indeed, in March 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would begin working towards a “privacy-focused” Facebook – a far leap from the company’s current business model. 

Further, there has not just been a shift towards privacy at the corporate level, rather there has also been a push for public privacy regulations. Cities like San Francisco have banned the use of facial recognition by municipal government agencies, and regions the European Union created the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR has created several restrictions on online data collection including fully informing and receiving informative consent from users whose data is being collected. While laws like GDPR these have the correct underlying ideas, however, they are evolving rapidly to best serve the public interest while not inhibiting private sector innovation. 

Data privacy

 

So how do growing businesses navigate this new privacy landscape? First, businesses must understand and abide by online privacy regulations in all jurisdictions that they operate. Additionally, customers have been drawn more and more in recent years to companies that respect their privacy and data. In going down this avenue, a business could implement advanced online privacy and cybersecurity tools that keep user information safe. 

But one cannot deny that data collection can be beneficial for businesses in gaining an understanding of their client base. But collecting data and respecting privacy are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Indeed, receiving consent from users can allow businesses a much-needed window into consumer profiles and preferences. According to Forbes, 80%  of customers are willing to share information with brands they trust and 80% are willing to share personal information in exchange for some benefit like reward points. So the key is keeping user data secure while building trust with customers. Their privacy will be respected, and they may, in fact, share information voluntarily to help the business improve its products and services.