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Data Privacy: Responsibilities of a Business and What to Know as a Consumer

January 28, 2021

STOP, have you read our Privacy Policy? Do you know what data we are collecting during this visit to our site? As a business, it is our responsibility and legal obligation to share with your users what information is collected and how that information might be used while in our system.

Responsibilities of businesses collecting information

Collecting Data

For businesses, collecting information from website visits is a pretty common practice in this day and age. Common pieces of data collected by companies include the IP address used to access the site, what kind of device the user is on, the user’s general location, and what site they came from. More specific personal information like a credit card number, email address, or phone number can be gathered on certain websites, mainly those offering e-commerce services or if a user submits a contact form.

Just like the information being collected, how a business uses the newly gathered data varies greatly. Many companies collect data to help them better understand their customer base. It also allows companies to adjust and fine-tune their marketing strategies based on who and how people are interacting with their site. Although most businesses collect consumer information with good intentions, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies. That’s why the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) recommends being open and transparent with customers about how your business collects and shares consumers’ data.

Protecting Data

As a business, it is your responsibility to keep the data you collect safe. Data breaches can not only lead to financial loss and a tarnished reputation but they can lead to legal trouble and government fines. The NCSA suggests adding a privacy framework to help manage risk within the organization, but it’s not just the business that needs oversight. The company is responsible for all partners and vendors that have access to the data.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is another helpful resource. It has compiled a wide array of how-tos and guides for businesses on how to protect collected data, how to stay compliant with all FTC regulations, and what steps to take if a data breach occurs. Long story short for business, whatever information is collected and however it is used – it needs to be kept safe and securely deleted when it is no longer needed.

Consumers: What to know about your data privacy

As a consumer, it’s important to know what information is being collected and how it’s being used. As mentioned above, this information can typically be found in a website’s privacy policy.

We realize that reading through every privacy policy on every website you visit is an overwhelming thought, and although that is what is recommended, is it feasible? The short answer is not really.

A pair of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University looked into how long it would take the average person to read the privacy policy of every website they visited in a year. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they found — the average length of a privacy policy on a website is about 2,500 words. With the standard reading rate close to 250 words per minute, it would take the average person 10 minutes to read one privacy policy. You might be thinking, 10 minutes to understand what is happening to my data, that seems like a fair trade, but that’s just one.

The researchers discovered the typical American visits 1,462 websites every year. Cue the calculator. That means the average joe would spend 243.6 hours (or more than 10 DAYS) a year just reading privacy policies. I’m not a scientist, but I’m going to make an educated guess and say not many people are doing that.

Lucky for you, the NCSA put together a tool to help consumers manage their privacy settings on dozens of popular sites. You can go in and set your privacy and security settings to match your comfort level. You can adjust the settings for different browsers, applications, and devices.

Managing your privacy settings shouldn’t just apply to sites you’ve already visited or applications you’ve downloaded, but monitoring your security settings on new sites and new apps you visit should become a habit.

Now, if you haven’t already, scroll down and read our Privacy Policy. It’s a little longer than average, but should only take you about 11 minutes to get through!

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