Why can’t products be designed with consumer privacy in mind? A recent controversy surrounding FaceApp collecting its users’ images has brought to light several data privacy issues. We only need to look at FB terms and conditions agreement to see that consumers are signing away rights to their personal information. The fact that the designed product, Facebook, doesn’t have consumer privacy in mind at all.

Tech companies need to design the product with consumer privacy in mind.

Many businesses collect consumer data in a way that has been a topic of controversy. Consumers are now demanding both the federal and state take action by enforcing new rules and regulations protecting their rights to their own data.  The larger tech companies seem to be the most culpable in allowing a lack of consumer privacy to continue.

Businesses have a responsibility to be transparent with their customers about the use of personal data — consumer privacy must come first.

Consumers have made clear with the recent pushback against data collection practices; something must change. A lack of clarity around how a company collects or uses customer data hurts the business. Lack of clarity also:

  • Hurts a brand’s reputation.
  • Takes away from any positive buzz around a product or service.
  • Causes internal scrambling to fix issues that may arise.

Consumer Expectations and Transparency

In response to cultural and legal changes happening in the U.S., consumer expectations around privacy are shifting. Consumers expect businesses across all industries to have a quick and concise response to inquiries around how their data is being used. The sentiment is likely rooted in expectations from eCommerce or IT services. But the standard for any business that interacts with consumer data in one form or another has to design and market with consumer privacy at the top of the list.

Consumers are increasingly aware that their personal data is being collected. Businesses need to help their consumers understand exactly what data is being stored and used. Companies can take a more transparent approach by using clear, visible notices whenever the consumer will be sharing information or where data is being collected.

Data privacy pain points can help businesses to keep consumers privacy in mind during their product design process:

  • Think About Privacy Early — Enacting a Privacy by Design framework helps with proactively embedding privacy into the design and operation of a product. Business practices, including IT framework, can work toward complete privacy. The concept allows product designers, from the very early development stages, to think about privacy and consumer data.
  • Consumer privacy is less expensive and disruptive to take care of right up front in the design phase. The industry should demand this right, rather than trying to tack on protections later.
  • Get Insights from a Neutral Party — One of the most difficult challenges businesses face when it comes to designing their product is stating an objective. But the aim of privacy details should be precise, even for new or unfamiliar customers.
  • Additional, unauthorized data usage should be stopped. Businesses can garner insights from third-party resources by surveying people they trust about their comfort level on their business’ data collection practices.
  • Privacy issues often stem from consumers feeling like their data is being used for purposes they aren’t familiar with.
  • Consumers need to grant permission for additional usage of their data.
  • Companies should be required to stay up-to-date on best practices — While no business has cracked the best way to effectively communicate data collection practices to consumers. But industry best practice can be implemented.
  • Innovations and marketplace best practices should be regulated. The world of privacy is ever-changing, and it’s crucial to note that the best practices that are followed today may be different tomorrow.

Data collection practices and privacy laws are not one-size-fits-all, and every business has its own method of collecting data from consumers.

If a business needs to respond to a customer’s privacy concern, having a plan in place is beneficial–from seeking legal advice to being transparent with consumers, to painting their product or service in a positive light. Being prepared is crucial to preventing privacy issues from the get-go.

Marjory Gentry

Marjory Gentry

As Corporate Counsel for LegalZoom, Marjory Gentry is responsible for providing compliance advice to LegalZoom and staying abreast of developments in all aspects of the law that impact LegalZoom’s operations, including consumer privacy issues. She has over 10 years of experience advising clients in a broad range of industries – from SMB to the largest financial institutions – on compliance related issues. Ms. Gentry has a B.A. from Queen’s University and a J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.