In case you missed it, last week was Privacy Awareness Week.
With over 700,000 Australians becoming victim to on-line
identity theft in just the past year, protecting customers
on-line privacy is one of the most critical issues website publishers
Under Australian Law, the privacy rights of Australians are protected by
the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act), which relates to the
protection of personal information about an individual that does or could
According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the
Privacy Act outlines the "standards, rights and obligations for the
handling, holding, accessing and correction of personal information"
which privacy law aims to protect.
It may surprise you to know that most Australian small-businesses
are not covered by the Privacy Act, meaning they have no
responsibility to ensure the privacy of their customer information.
There are however moral and commercial pressures: online privacy is
already so important to some customers that it is a determining factor
when choosing one eStore over another.
So what can eStores do to allay the fears of increasingly
We've put together 10 simple but powerful tactics that website owners can
use to reduce the fears of customers that are concerned about their
Ensure that areas of the website that collect personal information
(such as the registration form, or the checkout payment page) are
secured using HTTPS - Consumers are now learning to "look for the lock"
and discriminate if they don't see it. (Pro Tip: Make the whole website
Only collect personal details that are absolutely necessary to conduct
business - If you don't need it to conduct your business, don't collect
it. The more personal information a customer needs to fill into a form,
the more wary they become. (Pro Tip: Never collect a customers Date of
Birth unless it is a legal requirement for your industry)
that is easily accessible and visible - Don't just put your Privacy
Policy in a small link at the bottom of your website, link to it where
ever you are collecting personal information and make it very clear
that privacy is important to you.
Clearly state the personal information that you will AND will not
collect and what you will do with this information - This allows
customers to know exactly what personal information and why they need
to provide it.
Give visitors access to view the information that has been collected
about them, and allow them to update it easily.
Don't use sensitive personal information which could identify a
customer in e-Mail or newsletters - e-Mail is an insecure medium. Not
only is a bad idea to include sensitive personal information in e-Mail,
it also decreases customer confidence when they see their personal
details being sent over an insecure medium. (Pro Tip: Never send a
clear password in an e-mail: instead send a partially masked password
hint or preferably, allow the customer to re-set their password
Encourage your customers to protect their personal information by using
strong passwords, and to change them regularly - Protecting privacy is
as much a responsibility of the customer as it is of the business
Where appropriate, allow visitors to interact with your website
anonymously - It isn't always necessary to collect personal information
to conduct business. This may just be a case of allowing the customer
to browse without needing to register first, or allowing them to post
Opt-In to the Australian Privacy Act, and advertise this fact - Show
your commitment to good privacy practice by opting into the Australian
Privacy Act. Doing so will have your business name added to the public
Opt-In Register, which can increase consumer confidence and trust.
Have a data breach response plan - as some organisations such as eBay
have learned, honesty and open communications are the best policies to
keep customers informed. A response plan will not only serve to
decrease the impact on the affected individuals, having such a plan can
also improve customer confidence.
Personal privacy is a very important part of everyday life, and this
extends to using the Internet including sending and receiving e-mail,
browsing the Web, using social media and especially shopping on-line.
Anything website and eStore operators do to improve customer confidence,
including addressing increasingly important privacy concerns, should
improve customer experience and satisfaction, and a happy customer is
much more likely to be a returning customer.
If you are unsure whether your business needs to comply with the
Australian Privacy Act, you can use the OAIC Privacy Checklist for Small Business .