The Essential Small Business Guide to Data Privacy

If your business collects, processes, or shares data belonging to customers, employees, or business partners, then you have substantial privacy obligations. Regardless of your location, your operations are probably subject to state, federal, or even international data privacy regulations. This small business data privacy guide explains how to properly handle or use the information you collect from the people you interact with via your digital assets, including your business website.

Introduction to Data Privacy

Data privacy means gathering, creating, using, sharing, and responsibly disposing of personal information. It entails key legal issues such as:

  • Notifying your customers or affected users once your privacy policies change.
  • Allowing users or customers to access and delete their data.
  • Requesting permission from customers before collecting, using, sharing, or selling their data.

Keep in mind that an individual or an affected party may sue your business if they feel that you failed in your responsibility to protect their data privacy.

Importance of Incorporating Data Privacy for Small Businesses

You can avoid costly regulatory issues by simply incorporating data privacy practices into your small business operations. Compliance can also give you an edge over competitors who fail to observe data privacy rules. Other advantages include:

  • Enhanced business agility.
  • The ability to make informed business decisions.
  • Minimal data breach losses.
  • Reputational boost.
  • Optimized data processing.
  • Enhanced operational efficiency.

Here are some suggestions for implementing a robust data privacy culture in your organization.

Understand the Data You Collect

You need to understand the data you collect before you can decide how to properly handle it in compliance with specific privacy regulations. Start by auditing your entire digital footprint and all business devices/systems such as computers, smartphones, the cloud, and flash drives. If you have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, your employees’ devices may also host customer data worth protecting.

Next, identify the personal data you’re storing or handling. It could be customer or employee data or even information about your business partners or third-party vendors. Be sure to categorize the data based on its type or sensitivity levels. For example, names, credit card details, social security numbers, or number plates constitute personal data.

Understand What You Do with the Data You Collect

Do you simply collect, store, and process customer data or are you also selling, transmitting, or otherwise sharing the information? What you do with the data you receive or read determines the specific data privacy laws you must observe. You’ll also want to consider the applicable data privacy laws in relevant jurisdictions. For example, if you’re collecting data from Europe-based visitors or customers, you have to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Protect the Data You Collect

Take these measures to protect the data you gather.

  • Have a data minimization policy– Delete data no longer in use to limit your data breach exposure.
  • Minimize sharing– Avoid unnecessary sharing of data or sensitive information with third parties.
  • Implement adequate cybersecurity measures-Protect the personal data you collect from hacking, eavesdropping, phishing, and other cyber threats. As any up-to-date data privacy guide will point out, cybersecurity for small businesses requires measures like WiFi, email, and in-transit and at-rest data encryption. Firewalls, regular hardware and software updates, multi-factor authentication, and staff training can also help with enforcing data privacy in your organization.

Compliance with state, federal, or global data privacy regulations is a vital success factor for any small business. If you’d like to learn more about enforcing personal information privacy in your organization or protecting your business with data security and privacy insurance, contact the experts at Burton A. Harris Insurance Agency today. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about cybersecurity policies.