5 Privacy Considerations for UK Startups and Tech Companies

Let’s start with a rhetorical question: Should startups or SMEs spend already-scarce resources on protecting their data?

Yes, they definitely do, and beginning early is the best thing to do apart from exploring reasons why every startup, even the infant ones, need to invest in protecting their data.

Why it pays to take online privacy seriously

Online privacy is all about handling and protecting personal data, ethically. It all comes down to building a relationship based on trust with your customers and keeping that trust intact. In a nutshell, it’s about playing the role of a trustworthy warden, protecting personal data of people you haven’t even met personally.

When a user, specifically a new user, entrusts a business with his/her personal data by signing up for their service, it automatically becomes the responsibility of the business to guard that data, PERIOD.

According to research by Pew Research Center, 61% of adults strongly disagree with the rhetoric that online services need access to personal data to become more efficient. Another research of the same nature revealed that 91% of adults agreed to the fact that consumers don’t have much control over their personal information, which is gathered and used by different companies for a largely undefined purpose.

Every consumer, be it a student, parent, employed, unemployed, millionaire or broke, faces a range of tradeoffs that influence their privacy in different ways.

The following points highlight why businesses, especially startups, should care more about privacy:

It pays off in the long run. Keeping data private not only increases trust and enhances user experience, but also helps diminish larger risks to your brand image.
Law has the upper hand. There are several laws in place that govern privacy, including the Privacy Protection Act for Children’s Online Privacy and the 2003 act of CAN-SPAM. California is one of the most privacy-centric states, requiring businesses to clarify their privacy policies and mandatory reporting of every data breach.

That’s why protection of data is the responsibility of companies that design products and services, a fact largely supported by lawmakers and consumer protection groups.

5 considerations to keep privacy in check

In order to build privacy-centric practices, startups, tech companies and businesses should revisit the privacy implications of the products and services they are offering.

1. Prepare an inventory of data

When you are collecting personal data of your customers, the first and most basic thing is to understand what that data is and for what purpose it should be used.

Start by taking inventory of the data, keeping in view the compliance obligations. It’s quite difficult to classify how to protect users’ privacy when you don’t know what type of data you have. So, be watchful about that.

The primary objective here is to determine what sort of personal data is being collected and shared with third parties during the entire process. The details range from name, addresses, age, geo-locations, payment details, or Social Security Numbers, etc.

2. Analyse the data findings

Is it necessary to collect everything you are collecting? This is the most important question that needs to be answered. Organisations of a privacy-centric nature only collect and retain the data they need. This practice is called data minimisation.

Data minimisation limits the amount of data your company holds, resultantly lessening the burden and responsibility of securing and managing large sets of data. Data minimisation complements big data analytics in two ways:

• Identifying which data needs to be collected as well as specifying the purpose of collecting the data
• Retention of data for only the specified time period in order to satisfy the said purpose

Consumer protection laws

3. Keep an eye on consumer protection laws related to your business

Certain rules and regulations apply to your business, especially in terms of protecting the inventory of personal data. Understanding these regulations will help you save you brand image from being tarnished or legal repercussions down the road.

The websites of Federal Trade Commission and its Consumer Protection Bureau can be visited for further info. They hold a treasure of information related to data handling, marketing and carrying out business practices ethically.

4. Design an easy going privacy policy

Your privacy policy reflects how serious you are about handling your users’ data; how it is collected and shared, and what is the timeframe for retaining that information. Mistakes in privacy policy can cost a startup its brand image in the long run. Usually, long and complicated privacy policies discourage users from reading it. So, keep it simple to build trust.

5. Implement solutions and educate employees

It’s important that all the stakeholders are on-board when designing privacy practices and the right resources are being utilised to protect personal data. Your company’s compliance obligations should be designed in such a way that they integrate a culture of privacy, organisation wide. Some of the solutions and best practices which can be followed are:

• Implement necessary security measures – Organisations in the UK can deploy a properly configured VPN for UK or firewall to protect data including the cloud storages and secure remote access for employees.
• A privacy dashboard to keep employees abreast of the latest happenings in the privacy sphere, privacy law excerpts, customer feedback, precautionary measures. This all can be gathered in the form of an e-book.
• Internal privacy educational events such as speaker sessions or a group discussion to generate new ideas.

Irrespective of whether you have an established business or are just running a startup, these actionable items will make sure that all necessary data privacy practices are incorporated into your company’s culture from the very beginning.

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