Customer Privacy Issues

Written by Serena Berger
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Customer privacy should not just be the concern of computer users--companies can also take significant action to insure their customers' privacy. Individuals need to keep an eye out for spyware applications that try to install themselves on a computer that accesses a website. Many spyware programs compromise your privacy while serving no benefit to you. This ranges from an annoyance to a serious offense.

For companies, not sufficiently guarding customers' privacy can lead to a decrease in customer loyalty and resulting damage to the company's reputation. Several industries are being closely examined because they have access to sensitive information about customers. For example, there are regulations that strictly govern the healthcare industry and mandate a specific level of security on databases with patient records. There are also regulations that financial institutions must follow, specifying the degree to which they can share customers' payment histories with other institutions.

Taking Action to Protect Your Privacy

Customers who want to protect their own privacy can take certain measures and precautions. You should install software that is capable of detecting and deleting spyware that has been installed on your computer and delete it daily. Many programs are available for free; if you strongly support privacy, you can make donations to fund the continued development of such software.

The most common way that websites can track online behavior is by using cookies. These are small files that are installed on your computer and allow a site to recognize your computer when you return to the site so that it can personalize some of the information--this is common on e-commerce sites. Cookies in and of themselves are not extremely harmful and can save you the trouble of logging into a website every time you visit it. Some cookies, however, are used to track surfing behavior and then report the information back to a server where it can be used--usually for marketing purposes, but one could imagine it being applied to something far less innocent. Some programs will detect cookies that are harmful to your computer and recommend that you either delete or quarantine them.

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