How to ensure data security while building your customer engagement tools

Today, engaging with your customers through social data is crucial. But with legislation on the increase, there are now more restrictions on data collection, and rightly so. Laws like the GDPR make data security and privacy a top concern for your business.

So if you want to avoid facing fines and other penalties, it’s important to design your customer engagement tools and data storage with privacy and security in mind. Here’s how you can create a rock-solid data protection policy for your business, along with data security tips.

Neglecting data security and privacy could get your business into hot water

Before diving in, let’s define exactly what we mean by data security and privacy.

Data security involves protecting all the digital data you have control over. For businesses, a big part of that includes any databases, email lists, or other places where sensitive customer information is stored. The goal of proper data security is to protect your business from data breaches, cyber attacks, and other potentially harmful actions from unwanted users.

Some of the customer data that your business might be storing includes:

  • Names
  • Emails
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Credit card and bank details
  • Health information

There’s also information about your staff, shareholders, and other parties.

Data privacy is all about the relationship between how information is collected and subsequently spread. What’s required of you in terms of privacy depends on the legal and political climate, the type of data you’re collecting, and what your customers and the public have come to expect.

So, why exactly are these things so important?

Well, the consequences of a data breach or other security issues could cost your business a lot of money. Penalty fines under the GDPR can be as high as 20 million euros or 4% of your firm’s worldwide annual revenue! If you thought these are empty threats, or it’s too far-fetched and will never happen to you, think again. A digital marketing company in Poland has already been fined 220,000 Euros for violating Article 14 of the GDPR.

In fact, the new privacy legislation is putting a lot of marketers in Europe and the UK on the edge, fearing that they might violate the new legislation. Almost half of them have set aside safety amounts, accounting for GDPR fines.

Would your business be able to weather the storm if you were suddenly hit with a 100,000 euro fine? For smaller marketing firms and other companies, the answer is probably no.

When it comes to privacy, there are various factors at play. Thanks to the new laws, two out of three people now feel more comfortable with sharing their data online. That means that if you’re handling data during customer engagement and social media marketing, your potential customer is more likely to trust you with their personal information.

The downside is that 62% of people say they would stop buying from a business that fails to protect their data. So once you’ve got your customer’s trust, it’s crucial that you have safety measures in place to protect their data and justify their trust.

That means combing through your social media presence, customer service, and other forms of customer engagement, to see how the information you collect is being handled.

So it’s clear that both governments and customers expect a higher level of privacy and security when it comes to their data than ever before. The challenge for your business is to come up with a data protection policy that allows you to engage with customers while minimizing your own liability.

Creating a rock-solid data protection policy for your business

A good data protection policy should be able to design, guide, implement, monitor, and manage the security, of all the information that your business handles.

When you’re coming up with a data protection policy, it’s important to remember that it applies to information stored, managed, and consumed internally as well as externally.

Many businesses have good policies in place for how they store and protect information on their internal servers. But there’s often oversight when it comes to data that’s stored offsite or on a cloud-based service. Customer data that you’re storing in the cloud is still your responsibility, even if it’s being hosted by someone else.

Also, consider the transfer of data both to and from offsite data storage. Are you using encryption or other protocols to keep the data safe while it’s in transit? One report says that there’s no encryption on 82% of public cloud databases, which is quite scary! You want end-to-end encryption of your data. Both when it’s at rest, and when it’s in transit.

Your policy should outline the scope of data protection involved, and the roles and responsibilities of different staff that will help ensure your data is protected. That might involve an overall data custodian, as well as more granular policies depending on the relevant departments in your business.

Above all else, it’s important to make sure that you’re fully compliant with whatever legal requirements apply in your specific case. That part is crucial to maintaining and protecting your business.

Phishing scams, identity theft, and outright fraud are becoming very common today. It might be an external threat, or the issue may even be internal with one of your own employees.

That’s why all the information that your business stores needs to be protected properly. That includes customer information, payment details, financial information, and even things like contact information for your staff.

The time cost of setting up a proper data protection policy can seem daunting. It’s not something you can expect to get done in a day or two.

For larger companies, creating a robust data policy is likely a long-term project that will involve multiple people from your IT team, as well as lots of input from other departments within your organization about what kind of customer data they collect and store.

For smaller companies, finding the time to make a data protection plan can seem even more intimidating. You’ll probably need to bootstrap it and put something together yourself, in order to minimize financial strain upon your business. Luckily there are free templates available online that can help you to get started.

But consider the alternative. A study by IBM Security showed that the average cost of a data breach globally is $3.9 million. Taking the time to lay out a proper data security and privacy plan now is a no-brainer. Not only are you protecting the safety of your company, it will be the only factor that saves your company from potentially being bankrupted by an attempted cyber attack.

4 rules of data security that you can’t ignore

Here are some best practices when it comes to keeping data private and secure.

1. Collect only the minimum amount of data needed

In the past, marketers liked to just collect as much data about a person as possible, and then figure out what they were going to do with it later. That approach doesn’t really fly anymore.

Collect only that data, which you really need, and know what you need it for. For example, if you don’t need to know someone’s date of birth, then don’t collect that information. It not only reduces the variety of sensitive data that you’re storing, but it helps save your business storage bandwidth.

You can also minimize the amount of personal data that gets disclosed in the reports that you generate using the collected information. For example, instead of showing a person’s date of birth, make it more generalized such as “over 30 years old.”

Also, think about how long you need to store information for, and don’t keep it longer than necessary.

2. Restrict control and access to information

Not everyone in your business needs access to all of your customer’s sensitive data. Restricting access to specific staff members and use of strong passwords can help reduce security risks and make an overall stronger data policy.

When your entire company has a culture of privacy and is bought in, your data policy will have a much stronger impact. After all, your policy is only good if it’s actually followed and enforced.

Ensuring your staff are tech-literate and know the common tricks to look out for (such as not clicking suspicious links coming from unknown email addresses) will go a long way toward keeping your data secure.

3. Do a data audit, and monitor your data regularly

Customer information is flowing into your business from all kinds of different apps and devices.

Take the opportunity to see where it’s all coming from, and ask yourself some important questions.

Are all of these data sources safe and secure? What kind of data are you collecting, and do you have a reason why you need all of it? Do you have a consistent data collection policy in place across all touchpoints and geographies? Are you meeting your legal obligations?

Making a critical analysis of what type of data you collect as a business and how you use it will be a crucial first step when you’re first setting up a data policy. But it’s also something that needs to be regularly revisited and checked up on.

4. Back up your data consistently

We’ve almost all experienced a hard drive on our computer or laptop suddenly dying without any warning. But even though this is a common experience, many businesses aren’t regularly backing up their data. In fact, 58% of SMBS aren’t prepared to handle cases of data loss.

You want to find a reliable storage option to keep your customer data safe. You should also test your backup regularly to make sure everything is in order. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve been backing everything up, only to find that isn’t the case, and you’re blindsided by the revelation.

Sit down and take some time to think about what your companies data backup plan is. How will you store your information, where will you store it, and what’s your recovery plan?

It’s usually a good idea to store your backups off-site. That way you won’t lose them even in case of fire or other disasters.


Having the ability to create customer engagement through social data is crucial. But due to legislations like GDPR, there are more penalties to bear if you have a security or privacy breach in the process.

Putting safeguards in place to keep data safe might cost your business some money up front, but it could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if a data breach were to occur. The risk is too high to ignore, and data security needs to be a top priority for businesses of all sizes.

Only collect the information that your business actually needs when engaging with customers, and don’t store it for longer than necessary. Make sure you’re using data within the confines of the law and only for its specifically stated purpose.

What is your business doing in terms of data security and privacy? Let us know in the comments section below!