July 6, 2017

How You Should Approach Client Privacy

Beacons

Clutch.co is a portal dedicated to helping companies find the most suitable software developer. They have kindly shared the findings of their recent survey about the best privacy protection policies and strategies.

How beacons and websites affect privacy

Once beacons proved that they could drive significant sales conversions, many businesses were eager to implement them.

But even as customers eagerly engaged with beacons, some concerns emerged. Beacons function by detecting customers’ locations—but were they putting privacy at risk?

The short answer is: No, beacons do not put customer privacy at risk. However, even though beacons are a relatively safe way to drive deeper engagement with customers, your business could be putting customer privacy at risk in ways you might find surprising.

How beacons interact with customers

As we’ve discussed previously, beacons are small computers stationed in or around buildings that recognize when a customer’s mobile device is nearby, triggering an informational message or personalised experience via Bluetooth.

When it comes to privacy, customers have control over interactions with beacons. For a beacon to communicate with a customer’s phone through an app, the customer must give it permission by opting into the opportunity to receive special discounts, facts about their location, or other messages.

Beacons generally do not keep a record of the customers and locations they are pushing notifications to. Plus, if a customer changes their mind about sharing locations with beacons, they can opt out of participating at any time.

Websites and privacy protection

In reality, your business’s website may pose a greater risk to your customers’ privacy. A new survey from Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm in Washington DC, found that 45% of websites record visitors’ locations.

There are numerous ways that a business can use information about customers’ locations to provide better service. Let’s consider the example of an ice cream shop that has started attracting customers from a neighboring town. If the web traffic shows a large number of customers checking the website (possibly for hours or directions), plus the business notices a growing number of customers from a town nearby, this information can help them understand whether a second location in that town might be a good investment.

However, information that is improperly secured can pose a risk to privacy. Clutch found that 46% of websites store information in the cloud, while 48% store information directly on their website’s back end.

When it comes to location, the risk increases if the website also collects other types of information that hackers could use to learn more about visitors. Along with collecting locations, 57% of websites collect visitors’ email addresses and 47% of websites collect visitors’ names.

With a location alone, hackers may not be able to cause much damage. But combined with a name and email address, they can begin to build a deeper understanding of an individual–and learn where to look for additional details in preparation for an attack.

When it comes to beacon technology, customers might be surprised to learn that a familiar form of engagement they are more likely to trust may in fact pose the greater privacy risk.

Communication is key

To build and maintain trust with customers, the keys to a strong relationship between your business and your customers are honest and transparent communication, along with responsible security practices.

If you use your website to collect information about visitors, you can add disclaimer text to survey forms or your “About” page explaining how the information will help you better serve customers. Customers may be more willing to share an email address or respond to a survey if they know that you have a good reason–the desire to provide better service–behind the request.

Another common disclaimer is that “information will never be shared.” To make good on this promise, be sure that all information you collect is encrypted to protect from hackers’ prying eyes.

Finally, if you are exploring opportunities to use beacon technology, you can create marketing materials such as a newsletter to educate your customers on how beacons can improve their experience–without sacrificing privacy.

About the Author:

Michelle Delgado is a marketer and content developer at Clutch, a B2B research firm in the heart of Washington, DC.