The Feds and the States Are Embracing Privacy Law — What That Means to Your Business

The Feds and the States Are Embracing Privacy Law — What That Means to Your Business

The point is to put consumers in the driver's seat by clearly outlining data protection practices and reaffirming your company's commitment to data protection. Privacy laws are being introduced at both the federal and local government levels, challenging how U.S. companies access customer data -- and ultimately, how they conduct business. So, how exactly can companies build trust and anticipate compliance with privacy legislation? The point is to put consumers in the driver's seat by clearly outlining data protection practices, establishing simple processes for customers to remove themselves from opt-in lists and reaffirming on your website your company’s commitment to data protection. Even if you're not yet technically required to do so, you should ensure transparency about how your company acquires, uses and protects customers' information. Both companies first identified their challenges, then adopted a solution tailored to those obstacles. Too often, data security is nothing more than a checkbox on a corporate to-do list. But with the slew of recent data breaches and misuses stirring a sea change in how customers prioritize protecting their information, the new legislation offers a chance for businesses to reaffirm their commitment to privacy through social media and press outreach. But with unprecedented legal scrutiny placed upon how businesses access and leverage data, they must not only comply with the letter of the law, but the spirit of it. If organizations embrace a proactive, “privacy first” approach, they’ll be prepared to weather the shifting landscape of data privacy legislation -- and generate trust, brand equity and long-term success.

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The point is to put consumers in the driver’s seat by clearly outlining data protection practices and reaffirming your company’s commitment to data protection.

The Feds and the States Are Embracing Privacy Law -- What That Means to Your Business

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A modern-day battle is under way as lawmakers try to block companies’ efforts to get closer with the consumers of their products and services. And the focus of that battle is online personalization.

This is the practice of targeting an advertisement to consumers’ interests, platforms and online activities, with the hope they’ll be more likely to follow through with a company’s call to action (e.g., visiting its website, signing up for a service or purchasing a product).

Regardless of whether online personalization is referred to as “precision marketing” or merely recognized as good business sense, its value cannot be debated — particularly for small and medium-size businesses. Personalization reduces advertising spend by helping businesses focus their costs on reaching the audiences they intend, and delivering the tailored messages consumers have come to expect.

This is an important effort that can serve as an equalizer for smaller entrepreneurs who lack the marketing budgets of their larger competitors.

Despite this competitive edge online personalization enables, its efficacy as a marketing tool could soon be at risk. Privacy laws are being introduced at both the federal and local government levels, challenging how U.S. companies access customer data — and ultimately, how they conduct business.

Specifically, the federal government is considering writing its own set of sweeping privacy standards — including the ability to retract and delete information companies need to deliver targeted business advertising. Given the importance of such a law, it follows that data-reliant companies like Google are weighing in on what these rules should look like.

At the same time, states like California, Colorado, Illinois and Vermont have already enacted regulations that grant constituents control over their data, or at the very least, specify punishments for companies that don’t honor consumer privacy.

The work of these governments has created templates for other blue and purple states to create their own privacy policies, a trend some predict will be widespread sooner than later. In navigating this state-specific data policy minefield, organizations will find it impossible to customize their data privacy compliance to 50 different markets (assuming a federal law doesn’t pass first).

Instead, they will need to continuously identify the strictest regulation and comply with it, to ensure they can operate in the more stringent states. Bottom line: The way companies use data to bolster their business is changing — and fast.

What the future looks like

Having limited or no access to customer data may seem like an insurmountable business challenge. Data is, after all, at the cornerstone of today’s most successful companies. From Stitch Fix to Netflix, organizations are using personal data about your clothing style or favorite TV genres to optimize their offerings. At the same time, we as customers are accustomed to businesses using our data to learn our preferences, and tailoring their offerings accordingly.

With Amazon Prime, for instance, Amazon.com has a clear record of what members like to buy, when they’re most likely to make a purchase and how much they’re willing to spend; and that data goes into offering people the right deals at the right time, and, in the process, bolstering brand affinity.

Given the importance of data,…

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