Compliance Management, Privacy, Security Strategy, Plan, Budget

Protecting customer privacy through email encryption

Customer privacy protection is now squarely front and center in the data security discussion. With multiple massive scale data breaches affecting in excess of 110 million people occurring in the retail sector within a few weeks of each other, consumers are rightfully on edge about what safeguards are in place to protect their privacy.

In deregulated industries where privacy protection standards aren't mandated, many companies have not implemented adequate measures to address their customers' privacy protection. While most enterprise level companies have solutions in place to address fraud prevention and security around internal systems, the dangers around outbound transmission of sensitive data has been flying below the radar screen.

Companies are moving in droves to implement and promote electronic document delivery and for good reason. It saves the company time and money, it's good for the environment, and, most importantly, it delivers a better customer experience. 

Unfortunately, in the mad rush to digitize everything, data security for sensitive documents transmitted via email too often falls by the wayside. Why? For two reasons:

  • Companies are feeling pressure to keep up with competitors on customer experience management.
  • Technological innovation hasn't kept pace with new and emerging threats.

How are companies in unregulated industries currently handling electronic document transmission? They are touting the benefits of the speed and convenience of electronic delivery for receipts, reservations, bills, statements and applications – all of which contain sensitive data – and disclaiming responsibility for safe delivery.

From a consumer's point of view, offering electronic document delivery services while eschewing responsibility for data safety is akin to playing Russian roulette with their personal information – it's completely unacceptable. What can companies do to implement policies and solutions to protect their customers' privacy?

It starts with recognizing that a “disclaimer” is not a policy – it's a recipe for disaster.

Once companies understand how important it is to proactively protect and encrypt outbound email transmissions, it's critical that the interface around document retrieval from a customer's point of view is simple, easy and quick. Solutions that require recipients to download software to access their encrypted email transmission drastically reduce the likelihood that customers will actually use the service. Sender authentication features are also critical – customers must feel confident that your transmission is in fact coming from you and that they aren't being phished.  

We all want, need and deserve both the convenience of electronic document transmission and the peace of mind of knowing that personal information is safeguarded and secure. Innovative tools that bridge the gap between the benefits of email document delivery and the risk of unsafe transmission, retrieval and authentication are the wave of the future. And if it's simple, easy and quick for recipients to use, customer trial and adoption will follow.

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