7 Practical Steps To Enhance Your Data Privacy

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January 25, 2024

Imagine waking up one morning to find that your personal information has been compromised due to a data breach. This is not a hypothetical scenario but a stark reality for many Australians. In fact, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) reported a staggering 19% increase in data breaches from January to June 2023, with a total of 483 breaches recorded. 

In light of such events, the Australian Government has agreed to a raft of privacy reforms, imposing more stringent requirements on how companies collect, use, and keep the data of their Australian customers. These changes underscore the importance of data privacy and the grave aftereffects of failing to uphold it. 

With data breaches becoming increasingly common, it’s more important than ever for businesses to prioritise data privacy. Avoiding legal penalties is an obvious benefit, but keeping data secure is also a highly effective way to maintain the trust and confidence of your customers. 

To help you fortify your data privacy measures and protect your clientele, here are seven practical steps you can implement today.

How to Keep Data Secure in a Business

1. Understand the Laws Around Customer Information

You don’t need to become a data security expert, but you do need a working understanding of the legal framework surrounding customer information. Under Australia’s Privacy Act 1988, businesses are entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding customers’ personal information from unauthorised access, misuse, interference, loss, or disclosure. This entails protecting data during its active use and ensuring its secure destruction or de-identification when it’s no longer needed.

Consider the case of Optus, one of Australia’s leading telecommunications companies. In September 2022, Optus reported a massive data breach that exposed the private information of nearly 10 million customers. The breach was attributed to unauthorised access via an online application programming interface (API) that did not require authentication. This incident compromised the trust of millions of customers and led to a class-action lawsuit. 

One of the more notable aspects of the case is that many former Optus customers who had not been with the telco for years had their data exposed. This is a stark reminder of the potential consequences of failing to securely dispose of customer data after its required retention period. Despite the company’s efforts to shut down the attack and work with the Australian Cyber Security Centre to mitigate customer risks, the damage had already been done. The breach had severe repercussions, including legal ramifications and a significant loss of customer trust.

2. Check If Your Business Needs to Comply

Determining whether your business falls under the purview of the Privacy Act is essential. While businesses with an annual turnover exceeding $3 million are mandated to comply, smaller enterprises may also be subject to compliance requirements based on their nature of operations. For this reason, it’s worth conducting a thorough assessment to ascertain your obligations under the law. From here, you’ll have a better understanding of the best ways to protect data in your business. 

3. Decide What Information Qualifies as “Personal”

Identifying what constitutes personal information is foundational to data privacy efforts. Personal information encompasses a broad spectrum of data points that can be used to identify individuals. From basic details like email addresses and postcodes to more sensitive information like financial data and medical records, it’s imperative to recognise and accurately categorise the data you handle. 

4. Protect Personal Information

Creating robust safeguards for personal information is one of the best ways to protect data from criminals and from accidental leaks. For businesses covered by the Privacy Act, adherence to the OAIC’s Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) is mandatory. These principles delineate the standards for handling, using, and managing personal information. Even for entities not bound by the Privacy Act, adopting best practices for data protection is a great way to maintain trust and build credibility.

5. Prepare Your Privacy Policy

Crafting a comprehensive privacy policy is a fundamental step towards transparency and accountability. Your privacy policy should articulate the types of information you collect, the purposes for which it’s used, and the measures employed to protect it. Making this policy readily accessible to customers – such as by publishing it on your website – demonstrates transparency and reinforces trust.

If you’d like to see an example, feel free to take a look at Invotec’s Privacy Policy. For help constructing your own privacy policy, Business Victoria offers a free template, while the OAIC provides guidelines to follow. 

6. Use End-to-End Encrypted Chat Apps

Encrypted communication tools can enhance the security of sensitive exchanges. While primarily a security measure, chat applications with end-to-end encryption can significantly bolster digital privacy. By mitigating the risk of unauthorised access and interception, these tools offer an added layer of protection for confidential communications.

7. Opt Out of Ad Personalisation

Taking control of your online footprint is pivotal in safeguarding data privacy. Opting out of ad personalisation for major platforms means you’re able to curtail the use of your data for targeted advertising purposes. While it may not prevent data collection entirely, it minimises the extent to which your personal information can be leveraged for commercial gain, thus affording you greater privacy control.

Data privacy is an ongoing commitment, requiring constant vigilance and adaptation to emerging threats and evolving regulations. Regularly reassessing your privacy practices, staying informed about relevant laws and industry standards, and fostering a culture of privacy within your organisation are crucial steps in protecting your business and the trust of your customers.

If you’d like help with any of these vital data privacy steps, Invotec’s skilled IT consultants are at your service. We offer tailored data protection solutions and can develop a custom package that fits your budget and addresses the unique challenges you face. With Invotec, you’re guaranteed first-class service from a friendly team of experts dedicated to securing your business’s data. Contact us today to ensure your data remains secure and your business continues to prosper.

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