The digital and regulatory landscape continues to evolve. Businesses rely on data analytics to make data-driven decisions that grow revenue. Across all industry verticals, companies rely on customer data, meaning they collect more sensitive information than ever.

This reliance on data creates a set of security, privacy, and ethical concerns. In the face of data breach upon data breach, consumers include an organization’s data privacy policies when making buying decisions. At the business-to-business level, customers need to protect themselves from the barrage of supply chain attacks.

Creating ethical business practices that focus on data privacy enables organizations to use data responsibly, grow revenue, build customer trust, and meet data protection compliance requirements.


Driving Collaboration and Revenue with Data

Today’s executives need data to make decisions. The value of data-driven processes is, unsurprisingly, evident in the data. 

The Rise of Data in Business

Although using data is not new, the quantities of available data and analytics tools are. According to one report, 83% of chief executive officers want their organizations to be more data-driven. The report found that organizations with strong data cultures used data:

  • In daily meetings and discussions
  • When recommending next actions or steps
  • To support major decisions

Further, the people in data-driven organizations communicated and collaborated, breaking down data silos and creating open environments where they shared insights.


The Impact of Data on Revenue

Organizations use customer data to make decisions about future offerings/products and deliver better customer experiences. Again, the data supports this with recent research noting that implementing real-time data analytics and systems leads to:

  • 28.1% potential revenue increases across the board
  • 80%+ firms reporting revenue increases
  • 98% rise in positive customer feedback
  • 62% increase in process efficiency

Organizations with strong data cultures achieve their revenue goals but only if they manage to protect customer data.


Digital Trust: The Business Imperative

Building customer brand loyalty requires establishing digital trust. Increasingly, customers care deeply about how businesses manage their data.

According to McKinsey, consumers take corporate data use seriously, finding:

  • 40% of all customers stopped doing business with a company that was not protective of customer data
  • 53% of consumers make online purchases or use digital services only after making sure that the company has a reputation for protecting its customers’ data
  • 87% of respondents said ethical and trusted reputation was important to their buying decision
  • 87% of respondents said that the amount of personal data requires was important to their buying decision

Despite consumers and customers using data protection as a buying factor, only 23% of organizations actively mitigate data privacy risks across the entire organization, with 33% actively mitigating them across most organizations.


Collaboration and the Accidental Privacy Violation

Organizations struggle to balance their reliance on data analytics and their desire to protect sensitive information. As they break down silos and democratize data, they often lose control over who has access and what they do with that access.

Business analytics tools provide robust data security and privacy controls. However, the controls only apply to the data used and stored within the tools.

When people download and share these reports, organizations may no longer be able to track usage and access. Consider the following scenarios:

  • An employee in the marketing department shares a report that contains prospect data with someone in sales.
  • The accounts payable department shares financial reporting information with the accounting firm.
  • A CEO shares forecasting data with Board members.

In each case, data sharing is necessary for business operations. In each case, people share data with people who need access to the reports.

However, once the employees share data, they lose control over what happens to it. For example, consider the following potential privacy violations:

  • The employee in the sales department shares information with the product team.
  • The organization’s accountant forwards the document to a peer who can print it.
  • A Board member accidentally forwards the forecasting data to the wrong email address.

In each case, the data mishandling is accidental. None of the individuals intend to violate privacy laws. However, in each case, this mishandling leads to unauthorized data access.


Building Data Privacy into Business Operations: The Path to Ethical Data Handling

Too often, privacy and security inhibit efficiency and collaboration, creating a barrier to entry. Organizations need to integrate business technologies that allow them to create ethical data-sharing processes so that they can collect, store, and use data effectively. When organizations adopt privacy by design, they build systems across people, processes, and technologies that incorporate privacy by default.


Be proactive and preventative

Organizations should leverage end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to protect the data lifecycle. E2EE encrypts data when it’s created on a user’s device, ensuring that only authorized, intended users can see and use it.


Ensure privacy is the default setting

Customers should retain control over their data to the extent possible. Organizations need to specify why they collect, use, and retain customer data. They should minimize their data collection as much as possible, anonymize data, and encrypt data to prevent accidental disclosures.

Further, organizations need vendors who take the same approach to privacy. When partnering with technology companies, organizations should look for zero-knowledge solutions. These vendors limit the amount of data they retain. For example, they never store passwords or encryption keys on their servers.

A holistically implemented privacy program enables data protection and control throughout the data lifecycle. 


Embed privacy into processes

Employees need to share data and collaborate. Technologies should enable robust, ethical data sharing without hindering productivity.

Organizations should look for secure cloud workspaces that automate workflows without compromising privacy. For example, organizations can use E2EE solutions that provide secure, encrypted links that enable them to:

  • Set expiration dates
  • Require passwords
  • Implement email verification

These capabilities embed privacy into daily activities, nurturing a culture built on data privacy.


Sharing Data Responsibly and Ethically Enables Digital Trust

To remain competitive, organizations need to build data cultures founded in analytics and collaboration. Simultaneously, they need to implement their data cultures with a foundation of privacy by design to build the digital customer trust needed for revenue growth.

Organizations must empower people to take control of their data. Further, they should feel empowered to control their own data, including security data like passwords and encryption keys.

In a digital world, privacy is a human right. Organizations that view privacy through the lens of ethical business operations build sustainable, digital, data-driven business models.

This article originally ran in Today’s Cybersecurity Leader, a monthly cybersecurity-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security magazine. Subscribe here.