It's October, so you know what that means: everyone has got Halloween on the brain. And while your favorite movie or TV show is decent costume fodder, there's one thing you can dress up as that will truly spook anyone reading this article: a data breach.

I'm being facetious, of course, but the truth of the matter is that the thought of a data scandal should terrify us. Think about it: it indicates something weak in our security system, damages consumer trust, and, if you're doing something you shouldn't be as a company, it exposes you. Just ask Facebook.

Tech companies appear to (finally) be taking steps toward protecting consumer privacy, which is great--but what does it all mean? Solving this problem can't be that simple, right?

Prioritizing Privacy

After essentially having various levels of free-for-alls with consumer data, Silicon Valley is finally starting to listen to consumers who are concerned about information security. Last month, representatives from companies like Amazon, Twitter and Google met with senators at the Examining Safeguards for Consumer Data Privacy hearing, to discuss present and future privacy policies that will protect consumer data.

As leaders, we should be volunteering to take part in--and even spearhead--these conversations. We need to show consumers that we care about privacy issues, not just tell them, and we can do so by showing up to hearings, signing petitions, and partaking in other forms of public advocacy.

Including Consumers

Following the hearing, Amie Stepanovich, the US policy manager for digital rights organization Access Now, expressed concerns to The Guardian, noting that the hearing was lacking consumer representation. (Committee chair John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota, stated that a second hearing will include consumer advocates.)

This should also concern companies who wish to prioritize consumer security; what good are the potential laws we will have to abide by if they're not being shaped by the people they're meant to protect? Who is better to ask what consumers want, than consumers?

Any measures you take to address consumer privacy issues should be guided by consumer insights, as they're the ones being affected. But how do you get those insights?

Just Ask

People who have worked retail in the 21st century are likely familiar with the customer satisfaction surveys at the bottom of receipts. Unsurprisingly, it's easiest to get customers to fill those out after they've had a great experience in your store.

The same goes even on a larger scale. If you're providing consumers with something valuable--household items delivered same day, a way to keep in touch with friends across the globe, the latest in cell phone technology--they will likely be willing to give you feedback.

So if you want to know how your customers feel about the way their information is being handled, survey them, or provide other opportunities for them to voice their concerns. You might hear some things you don't want to, but swallowing your pride and addressing these issues head on is much better than having to do so later, in an apology, after your loyal consumers' information has been manipulated or compromised.

Keep Fighting

These privacy issues are often posed as company versus consumer. And while certain companies have made enemies of their consumers, that doesn't have to be the case. We should care just as much about data protection as our consumers do, because our consumers are central to everything we do. Stay up to date on their needs and wants, and go from there.

Published on: Oct 19, 2018