Chances are very good that your visitors care about digital privacy. Pew Research tells us that 81% of Americans are concerned about what companies do with their data. 67% don’t know what companies do with their information. 73% say they have no control over these things.
So you can safely assume that your visitors are nervous about their digital privacy when they visit you. But they also have quite a bit of misinformation and confusion on the subject. Here are some of the issues.
People don’t know what’s private
We meet people who worry about their phone numbers being visible on their websites, ignoring the fact that those numbers are readily available on Google, and before that, were available in phone books. Apart from unlisted numbers, phone numbers aren’t private information. For most of us, our names are public information, as are public records of things like marriages and diplomas.
Our healthcare records are not public information, unless we share them. And this is often another side of the same coin. People will cheerily share their diagnosis on Facebook and then be shocked if they see ads, phishing emails, or other communications based on that knowledge. Social media is not private. It’s not intended to be private. Anything you say on social media is automatically public. Comments at a blog are not private, but most healthcare websites see comments like, “I just called your office to get my chest X-ray results but there was no answer. What are your hours?” — often including the individual’s name and email address, and possibly a phone number as well.
People think machines are the danger, when it’s usually humans
“I’ve been hacked!” people often say, when what they’ve really experienced is phishing or spoof emails or a straight-up con. Sometimes they feel targeted by random robocalls or ads. People often have a feeling that a clever robot, or at least some tech wizard mastermind, is out to get them. They often don’t recognize that they have given permission for companies to keep and use their data.In fact, Pew found that 73% if their respondents believe that they have no control over what companies do with their information. 80% believe that AI will allow companies to use their information in ways that were not originally intended or that they wouldn’t agree with. 61% think that what they do makes no difference.
In spite of their concern over privacy, Pew found that the average American consumer doesn’t read privacy agreements, uses passwords that are less secure, and writes those passwords down. They may be aware of crime in the physical world, to the extent that they would not leave a purse or wallet unattended on a table in a coffee shop, but they often don’t think of digital security in terms of crime committed by criminals. Since they believe that mysterious technical forces gather their information without their control, they don’t recognize their own lack of caution as a problem.
Because of these common misconceptions, visitors need protection…from themselves.
What should you do?
At your website, you should have basic security efforts in place:
- Use secure hosting. Your URL (web address) should begin with “https.”
- Think twice about the information you collect. Public information that will help you serve your clients is one thing, and private information is another.
- If you collect information, make sure it’s secure. Most data breaches are not caused by master criminals. They’re used by people who leave a file open when they go to lunch, or give sensitive information over the phone when someone asks for it. If you keep sensitive information for your work, including credit card numbers or health data, you must have a reasonable system for keeping it secure.
- Monitor comments. If someone shares information they shouldn’t, delete their comment and reach out to them so they understand why. If you see inappropriate or unsafe behavior in your online community, take action.
We all should take responsibility for our own digital data, but we can also make it easier for our visitors to feel confident about our care of their digital data.