Protecting Personal Data in the Digital Age

By Stuart Fuller


The Internet has become a key part of daily life and a critical business tool, allowing them to operate across the globe at the touch of a button. Whilst the Internet has delivered huge potential and opportunities, it has also produced huge threats and risks for us all. Three weeks ago, the BBC reported that the personal details of hundreds of London-based research students were posted online in an apparent breach of data privacy laws.

In this case, hundreds of student names, addresses, dates of birth, mobile phone numbers and signatures were published online, which could result in identity fraud. Today, the media is full of scare stories of cyberattacks and data breaches such as this one which highlights the need for individuals to be vigilant about where their personal details are stored and how they are protected.

One of the greatest success stories of the Internet age is the emergence of social media networks. Facebook has infiltrated the daily lives of billions of people across the world, with many users careless about the personal details they post online via the network.

In a quest to boosting their social media presence, many individuals will not hesitate to accept a friend request from a user profile that they barely know, and yet will be unaware of how many personal details they are providing this stranger with – such as full name, date of birth, hometown - and how this stranger can use this information to carry out fraudulent activities in their name.

The key to success for many brands is building a loyal and trusting customer base, however to protect this it is important that the brand defends itself against data privacy attacks to ensure that its brand integrity is not undermined.

In the past, we have seen many examples of brands having their reputation tarnished and irreparably damaged because of the actions of third parties.

Businesses want their customers to be advocates of their brands, however that can only be achieved by building and maintaining a strong level of trust.  This trust stems from having the confidence that their online experience will be safe and secure, and that their personal data will be protected against malicious purposes.

Creating a brand protection strategy is the starting point to building long-term trust and consumer advocacy.  Understanding what threats already exist on the Internet should be the first step, and defining a mitigation strategy against them should follow.  Just as customers trust a brand to protect them from online threats, the students affected in this week’s case had signed their personal information over because they trusted the organisation to protect it. The responsibility lies with the brand to take a proactive approach to identifying these threats so that they can protect their loyal customers.