Thanks to the internet, we can now shop for clothes, buy and sell stock, share videos of our pets doing tricks, and plan a vacation from the comfort of our own couch. While the digital revolution has made things more convenient for consumers, it’s also been a boon for businesses looking to gather customer data. Sometimes, it feels like the internet is mostly cat videos and memes. However, when you look beyond its surface, it’s actually the most amazing data collection tool in history.
Think about the last website you visited. Chances are that the moment you entered the site it left a tracking cookie on your device, making it possible to identify you across the internet. Did you register for an account? Now any information you submitted, including your name, email address, and phone number, may be linked to that cookie – the first step in building a customer profile that can be sold to other businesses.
Recent data privacy laws have focused public attention on the issue like never before. Spoiler alert: the public isn’t happy about how companies have been gathering and handling their data. The growing awareness and concerns have spurred politicians around the world to enact legislation to better/more responsibly manage personal data. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, took effect last year. On January 1, 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), officially rolled out in an attempt to add transparency to data collection.
Companies, Consumers, and Governments Are Still Trying to Figure out How to Align Groundbreaking Technology to Longstanding Beliefs About Privacy and Transparency.
What does the CCPA mean for businesses? First, Californians will have the right to know what personal data has been collected about them over the past 12 months. They also have the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information, request deletion of data collected from them, and to be free of discrimination regardless of their choices. And if your business is purchasing California personal information from other businesses, you may have obligations to ensure your data vendors are CCPA compliant. The internet is borderless, which means companies around the world face a compliance risk from the CCPA.
Widespread data collection without restraints has resulted in misuse of data, and responsible data management can help us stay on the right side of the law. Let’s say I’m interested in finding out what my favorite website knows about me. After receiving my request, employees will need to be able to access all the data connected to my profile – even if it was gathered through several methods.
For the purposes of this example, we’ll assume I’m taken aback by how much they know about me. After opting-out of the sale of my data from their database, the company will need an efficient means of doing so. If I’m very upset, I might ask them to stop gathering any data about me in the future. With CCPA in effect, the company or owner of the website is required to have a reliable way to identify me in the future so those wishes can be honored.
Now is the time to ask your IT, Sales, and Marketing departments about CCPA compliance. The same goes for third-party vendors involved in the collection and sharing of personal data. How do they match data to identify customers, and how do they delete records? Is there a process in place to exclude people from data collection? Who reviews such systems for accuracy? These are just a handful of questions that need to be answered.
It’s amazing to think that the internet has only been a major force in commerce for the last 30 years or so. Companies, consumers, and governments are still trying to figure out how to align groundbreaking technology to longstanding beliefs about privacy and transparency. I, for one, will be following the movements of companies to protect the collection of personal data and believe the expanding laws will increase the ethical and legal collection of such data. Eventually, companies will only have data from customers who want to receive their services and customers will continue to enjoy the convenience of online purchasing. That’s a win/win if you ask me.