How to Maintain Customer Confidentiality
Customer confidentiality means keeping information about people who use your products and services private. When a customer patronizes a business, he may have to give information such as his name, address or financial accounts. Certain services or products may also be embarrassing for a customer to admit he uses. Keeping customer records confidential establishes trust between the business and the client. Certain types of customer information should always be protected, especially social security numbers and credit or checking account numbers.
Encrypt any personal information that consumers give to your company over the internet. You can do this by installing a Transport Layer Security (TLS) or a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) in your website. TLS and SSL protocols identify your website from a customer's computer, via a certificate of authenticity. The programs tell the customer's computer to encrypt the information it is sending with a certain language that the host computer can understand. Customer information sent from a remote computer to the hosted company computer will be transmitted in a scrambled language that is indecipherable to hackers. Contact a TLS or SSL provider to get the scripts and software (see Resources).
Black out any important identifying information, like credit card numbers or social security numbers, before filing paperwork in archives.
Create employee log-ins for company computers. Do not let people who haven't been screened by your security to log-in on the computers or access any databases. Create passwords on protected files so that users who illegally gain access to the system will still not be able to access sensitive information.
Files that are particularly sensitive should be kept on a machine that cannot be accessed on a network. Put the computer and the backup files in a locked room that can only be opened by people with the authorization to read the information. If the information is sensitive enough to warrant it, you can install a locking mechanism that only responds to a numbered code or a specific biometric fingerprint (see Resources.)
Separate groups of customers. If you have one large database with lots of customer information, and it gets hacked, all the information is compromised. If you have separate databases for groups of customers, along with their personal and financial information, you won't lose it all if security on one section is breached.
Create a code to identify customers. Instead of typing a customer's name on important documents, just enter her code number. This makes it more difficult for a criminal to identify that customer, even if he gains access to her paperwork.
Ask employees to sign confidentiality agreements. These will put employees on notice that if they give out business or customer information, they run the risk of a lawsuit.