Consumer data is a company’s doorway into understanding consumer’s online behaviour, demographics, and product interests. It is one of the most invaluable resources that allows marketers to gain knowledge of their target market while identifying how marketing strategies should improve and adapt. But what is in it for the consumer? Personalisation, better customer service, more user-friendly product experiences and possible infringement of your privacy.

You are probably already aware of that last point because of all the cookies you have had to accept to enjoy an optimal browsing experience. But cookies are not our major concern here, data privacy is. 46% of consumers feel they have no control over their personal data. This fact should be a red light for any company or business that collects consumer data.

Every company that collects consumer data has a responsibility to keep that data safe and here’s why:

1. Cybercrime is on the rise

Everyday approximately 2 200 cybersecurity attacks happen worldwide. Cybercriminals are making trillions (we kid you not) from hacking company systems to stealing data, reselling it and even withholding it for blackmailing purposes. Because consumer data often includes people’s personal information it becomes even more valuable for a hacker. Just imagine hacking into a banking provider’s client network. Not only will it cause great monetary loss, but a company’s reputation can be damaged in a matter of seconds. Protecting consumer information is not only critical for your consumer’s peace of mind and privacy. It ensures that your company’s network security is not inviting any potential lurking cybercriminals.

2. Data privacy is a competitive advantage

The issue of data privacy is not a topic that is hiding under a rock. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their personal data is being captured and used, often without their permission. The controversial Netflix documentary The Great Hack, effortlessly exposed how data company, Cambridge Analytica, used millions of people’s personal Facebook data without their consent, to target American voters in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The documentary was not the first to expose the issue of data privacy, but it definitely opened people’s eyes to the importance of protecting your personal information. Specifically, because the dark side of data can be associated with consumer manipulation. The way your company handles consumer data is therefore a major competitive advantage and point of differentiation, especially when one considers how much value is attached to data and the potential stakes involved.

3. Data privacy regulations exist

Governments across the world have stepped in to tighten the laws on data and consumer privacy. So, if your company does not watch out you could be penalised or potentially taken to court. The General Data Protection Regulation is a law created by the European Union to standardise strict rules which companies must comply to, to protect consumer data. Similarly, in the United States, the California Consumer Privacy Act give people the right to know which of their data is collected and how much of their data is actively being used. South Africa has also followed these examples by recently implementing the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). The act empowers South African citizens to have rights over their personal information.

Be on top of your game with data privacy

No company wants to be known as the one that does not protect their consumer’s data and personal information. Take the necessary steps to ensure that your networks are secure, records are safe, and that your consumer information is not being leaked. The use of data will continue to become more intricate which will hopefully lead to even stricter consumer data rights and laws. It is all fair and well if your company has millions of consumer datapoints to work with, but if you do not respect the value and privacy of data, you might just jeopardize your consumers (as well as their data).