Data privacy is becoming increasingly important for businesses to gain trust with their customers. Companies that demonstrate their ability to protect and secure data, both their own and their customers’, have a clear competitive advantage.

Studies have shown that it is essential for a company to prioritize privacy and security in its business strategy. Data Protection Officers and product development teams should understand the value of incorporating privacy as a default feature into technology, with embedded privacy features at the conceptual and design stage.

One approach that is frequently discussed when it comes to data protection is Privacy by Design, which is the protection of data through technology design.

Today, organizations recognize the need to innovate, protect, and safeguard their own confidential data, as well as that of their customers and their business partners. However, data privacy and security has become a challenging task in the era of « big data » due to several factors:

  1. Social networking: social networks allow businesses to connect with their customers 24/7, but they also expose the databases and information systems of companies to cyber threats and malicious attacks, either intentional or accidental.
  2. Globalization: organizations and individuals readily exchange information and data over the internet, but that also increases the vulnerability of organizations to cyber-attacks and has led companies to heighten their data privacy and security efforts.
  3. Fluid organizational boundaries: the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a new work culture in which working from home or outside of business premises is the norm. That makes it easier for people, systems, and information to be exchanged, but it also increases the vulnerability of businesses to a loss of financial, confidential, and personal data.
  4. Increased risk of cyber breaches: data breaches can be damaging for any organization, regardless of size. High-profile cases of cyber security breaches and data theft, such as Sunburst, the SolarWinds attack, and the WannaCry ransomware, have also enlarged the need for stronger data security systems.

Data Protection Officers must determine the most effective approach to data privacy in today’s complex digital business environment. Organizations must find a balance between keeping high-grade data privacy systems and achieving financial and reputational gains for their business. Studies such as the one conducted by Cisco have found that there is a high ROI for companies that adopt a privacy by design approach to product development. This approach offers several benefits such as:

Fulfillment of Corporate Social Responsibility

Achieving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) requires companies to prioritize the security of employee, customer, and corporate data. Global Fortune 500 companies are currently investing more than $20 billion in CSR, highlighting the growing importance of data privacy and security. It is crucial to apply privacy policies from the design through to the implementation stage.

Privacy and CSR also overlap in terms of ethical and moral considerations, as discussed in « Business Ethics European Review ». Respecting users’ data privacy builds consumer trust and sets a business apart from its competitors by establishing a competitive advantage.

High return on privacy investments

According to the Cisco report « Privacy Benchmark » (*), companies can experience significant returns on investment for their privacy efforts. One key metric that was highlighted in the report is the correlation between privacy maturity and sales delay. The report found that organizations that were not fully developed in their privacy practices had an average delay of 16.8 weeks in completing sales, compared to just 3.4 weeks for companies that had a more mature approach to privacy. This suggests that investing in privacy can not only protect a company’s reputation and customer trust, but also have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Quality Software Development

The privacy by design approach encompasses all aspects of technology and keeps it on track. Successful implementation requires the right technologies, accurate data, innovative ideas, and skilled talent. These elements naturally contribute to the quality of software development through focused analysis and design throughout the development lifecycle. Privacy by design promotes smooth, error-free software development that meets the needs of customers, businesses, and legal and technological requirements.

Quality Data and Effective Marketing

Compliance with regulations such as GDPR allows companies to target their customers more effectively and collect data in creative ways. Users are also more likely to consent to the collection of their data if they trust that it will be kept safe. This enables companies to collect specific, high-quality data, to save time and resources and make marketing more cost-effective and rewarding.

Promotion of Robust Privacy Culture

Embedding privacy techniques into all business processes, technologies, products, and systems helps companies create sustainable, future-proof business systems by placing security and privacy at the heart of their business strategies. As awareness of data and information privacy grows, only businesses that respect users’ privacy concerns and demonstrate care through robust security features in their products and their business will remain competitive and profitable in the future. Therefore companies are adopting the privacy by design approach from the outset of their business expansion.

Attraction of More Customers and Business

Businesses that apply default safety and privacy for customer data make a good impression on customers. Their customers will feel more confident using technical products with robust security features and will often consent to paying more for unique or distinguished features. Therefore, companies can generate significant revenue through product differentiation, which creates a competitive advantage for the business.

Product Differentiation

Built-in security features reassure users that their data and information are safe. That makes the product unique and more advantageous compared to other alternatives in the market. Adopting a data privacy approach as a core business strategy can set a company apart in its industry and provide differentiation benefits.

Attract and Retain the Best Talent

Highly skilled and experienced workers also want to work with the best organizations. They will seek out companies with established goodwill and reputation in the market. Organizations with skilled employees can become more innovative and successful and have more opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to the advantages of incorporating privacy by design into the product development process defined above, there are some more (secondary) gains:

  • Reduced compliance costs: Non-compliance with data protection laws can result in significant financial and reputational costs, including penalties, fees, legal fines, and loss of business. The privacy by design approach can help a company comply with regulations and legislation such as GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, GLB Act, and FTV Act.
  • Security certificates: Proactive data protection can be achieved by embedding data privacy techniques in every stage of the product development cycle. Strict data privacy implementation can help a company obtain security certificates from reputable global privacy standards. Security certificates can help install trust with customers, business partners, and users, as well as increase goodwill, brand value, and a competitive edge. According to a Cisco report, 91% of respondents said that external security certification helps them in the purchasing process.
  • Development of secure applications: The privacy by design approach embeds data privacy measures into the technology design, making applications secure and able to anticipate and prevent security attacks.
  • Ease of operations: Proper documentation and clear code specifications can facilitate efficient software development and ease of use for different technical product users.
  • Improved Transparency: Privacy by design keeps privacy policy clear and straightforward from the start. According to a McKinsey study, 71% of respondents would stop doing business with a company that shared their personal information without consent. The Privacy by design approach of a company indicates that it prioritizes privacy as a key business strategy.
  • Efficient Code Documentation: Documentation procedures help software engineers track privacy issues and user requirements. Clear specification helps engineers incorporate privacy procedures at every module and understand data type and quality.
  • Goodwill: Safe and robust products increase brand value, reputation, and customer base, resulting in goodwill for a business. Goodwill will increase expected future profits, which are often higher than average profits in the industry.

Act Now

The success of a business will increasingly depend on gaining the trust of its customers. By implementing transparency, security, and a proactive approach to data privacy, a company can become more appealing to customers as a brand that prioritizes their needs. As a Data Protection Officer (DPO), you understand the crucial role of a strong and robust privacy environment and privacy systems in the protection of customer data within your company.

Don’t let tech-savvy customers discover that their data is not secure and lose their trust in your company, leading to business loss and disruptions! Improve your skills and vigilance in data privacy and security as a DPO by taking the « privacy by design » training offered by the Data Protection Institute. Incite your company to adopt the privacy by design approach to product development for unparalleled business advantages.

(*) https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/about/doing_business/trust-center/docs/privacy-maturity-benchmark-study.pdf

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