Facebook And Mark Zuckerberg Go To Washington: Why Data Privacy Is So Essential For Your Business

By Phil Rainsberger

So what in the world does the world's largest social-media platform have to do with your business? Some of you might be using Facebook, but many of you aren't—so who cares?

And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gets grilled by Congress for a couple of days (I wasn't surprised to see him wearing a tie, but I thought he'd wear the tie with one of his hoodies instead of a dark-gray business suit)—again, why the heck should you care? Don't you already have more than enough to worry about with your own business?

Yeah, but life's not always clear-cut, and it's not always fair—and the data-privacy debacle that Facebook created for itself will soon have far-reaching implications for every business doing any type of online marketing, and regardless of whether Facebook's part of that marketing mix.

Those repercussions will be coming from opposite directions in a classic pincher move: from the one side, public-sector officials of various stripes in Washington, D.C., will attempt some manner of legislative remedy, up to and possibly including regulatory measures. And while the efficacy of those mandates is up for debate, there's absolutely zero question that the ensuing compliance requirements will cost businesses time and money and distraction. The best we can hope for is that those measures will be only minimally intrusive and painful.

On the other side, the far more lethal measures will be those not meted out by the government but wielded by individual people: the power of the purse. In light of Facebook's glaring disregard for the online privacy of tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of its members, large numbers of Facebook users are dropping out—in their minds, the privacy costs simply outweigh the social benefits.

But the far bigger implication here is that regular people are viewing this as not just a Facebook problem but as a much more dangerous personal-privacy threat—and they're wondering just how much effort and thought businesses are putting into the protection of personal data that's becoming a raw material many businesses are using with abandon.

We're getting very close to a time when consumers will evaluate a company's data-privacy reputation as a top consideration when making buying decisions, and data privacy will be right up there with price, availability, fulfillment and customer engagement in those decisions.

Again, we know you've got tons of things to think about with your own business, and you don't want to have to be bothered with what some billionaires out in Silicon Valley are doing with their social-media empires. And we couldn't agree more.

HOWEVER: as we mentioned above, the bigger issue here—and one that we at Tier1 *strongly* encourage you to think about very hard—is how your customers feel about the level of seriousness and commitment you apply to keeping their data private, safe and secure. 

And while data privacy certainly has a lot of technological considerations, it goes well beyond that to policies, processes and awareness. At Tier1, we've helped many companies deal with not just the tech-side issues of privacy and security, but also the business-side implications. And because our expertise extends across both traditional and cloud IT, we can help you establish a positive data-privacy environment for today and into the future regardless of what your current IT setup might be.

Because you need to get on the right side of this issue *before* your customers begin to question where you stand.