The hacks at TJX (2007) and Target (2013) were the first time that we, as consumers, felt vulnerable to data breaches. When Facebook, one of the tech darlings of the U.S., was affected in the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016, it jolted consumer consciousness. Since then, discussion of Data Privacy has become increasingly more intense.
Nevertheless, millions of consumers are moving personal data to the cloud and purchasing connected devices that could make them vulnerable to privacy intrusions. Are you one of them?
Data Privacy for Consumers
Late last year, Mary Meehan of Forbes published an article entitled “Data Privacy Will Be The Most Important Issue In The Next Decade.” As a leader of technology companies with over 20 years of experience, I couldn’t agree more.
In her article, Ms. Meehan posits that, as consumers, we have been willing to give away our personal data in exchange for the convenience of information we could receive in return. As each of us are coming to discover, we didn’t actually know the cost of that decision at the time we made it. If we knew how our data would be used (often times months or years in the future), we may have made a different decision. As consumers, it seems, we don’t always know what we are getting ourselves into.
Thankfully, governments have begun to step in to protect consumers. The EU took a bold leap forward in formulating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, and California ‘s similar CCPA took effect in January 2020. Both regulations have effects well beyond their geographic borders, as B2C businesses attempt to align their privacy policies with these regulations globally.
Data Privacy for Businesses
Amid heightened consumer protections, what about B2B businesses? Similar vulnerabilities exist, but far fewer protections are in place. The theory is that businesses “should know better” and are better equipped to handle the risks. Do they know better? Are they equipped?
As we see in the Foodservice Equipment and Supplies industry, businesses are rapidly bringing sales and business processes online (Forrester forecasts that US B2B eCommerce will reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all B2B sales in the US by 2023) and storing mission-critical data in the cloud. Meanwhile, the same dynamics Ms. Meehan highlights for consumers exist for B2B companies. The ubiquity of interconnected supply chains, collaborative cloud computing, and artificial intelligence mean that – as businesses – we have knowingly allowed our business data to float outside the old-school boundaries of our private data center. We do this for the incredible efficiencies and insights that we get in return.
Are businesses equipped? While sophisticated technology companies have greater resources to fight data privacy intrusions, even companies like Marriott and Equifax, some of the largest and most trusted companies in the U.S., have been challenged with keeping data secure recently. If data security is this complicated, how are small and mid-sized companies poised to secure their data and still embrace technology in order to stay competitive?
Simply put, small and mid-sized companies must trust that their technology partners are dead serious about data security and are transparent about how they use customer data. As CEO of a software technology company that stores our industry’s data, this is a top priority issue for me. We go to extreme lengths to protect customer data and keep it private. While no system is fail-proof, our maniacal focus on security and transparency makes sure that private data stored with us stays private.
Data Privacy at AutoQuotes
Our policy at AutoQuotes is simple: we will never give up your project- or personally identifiable information (PII) unless you proactively instruct us to do so. As our customers, you put PII onto our platform every day, and we take your trust very seriously. We know that were we to ever give up your PII to make a quick buck, we would breach your trust, jeopardize your relationship with your end-customer, and you would quickly find an alternative to using AQ. The way we see it, properly maintaining PII through both superior data security and proper policy is both the right thing to do and good business. There is nothing we value more than the trust and business of our customers and this industry.
Whether you do business online and employ modern enterprise software is no longer a choice for business owners in 2020; rather, the question is how to adequately embrace technology in a safe, efficient, and transparent manner. Just as you can’t afford to miss the boat on online sales, neither can you afford to miss the boat on partnering with companies that take your data security seriously. For all of our customers and partners, know that we take this seriously, and are grateful for your trust and business.