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.
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.
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.
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