Data Privacy Tips for Small Businesses and Organizations

Everyone has a role to play when it comes to the protection of personal information, in particular organizations that collect data from their customers. This is especially true for small businesses, which often collect email addresses for newsletters and phone numbers for personalized follow-ups as they continue to seek growth. With target customers often including friends, family, neighbors, and others in the local community, the importance of data protection measures hit close to home.

Why should Organizations Care about Data Security?

  • Pew Research Center reports that 79% of U.S. adults are concerned about the way their data is being used by companies
  • 81% of consumers agreed that the way an organization treats personal data is indicative of how it views and respects its customers
  • Consumers ranked ‘Provide clear information on how my data is being used’ as the most important activity for an organization to take on in order to build trust
  • 82% of consumers are willing to act on protecting their data and are willing to spend time and money to protect it
    • This includes expecting to pay more when the promise of data security is included, and noting data security as a factor when making a purchase decision.

Not Securing Data Can Cost

  • 76% of consumers say they would not buy from a company who they did not trust with their data (Cisco)
  • 37% of consumers say they have already switched companies or providers to better protect their privacy (BizTech)
  • Small Businesses are 3x more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than larger companies (Forbes)
  • The average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $4.4 million on average globally and $9.44 million on average in the United States (IBM Security)
    • In the study from IBM, more than half of the organizations surveys indicated that the costs incurred during the data breach were passed on to their customers by way of service and product cost increases.(CNET)

Tips for Organizations to Protect Data

From small businesses to large companies, it is important to have plan on how to make data privacy a priority and protect your information and the information of your customers. Consolidated employs best in class network security measures and works hard to educate customers and employees on data security best practices.

The Small Business Administration has found that the majority of small businesses are concerned about their vulnerability to a cyberattack, but that many lack the resources and knowledge to prevent them. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your data is secured, and that your customers know it.

Securing Data

  • Conduct an assessment
    • Understand what data you have and how it is being collected, and what current protocols are in place.
    • Become familiar with any relevant privacy laws that apply to your business
    • Create a plan for if a data breach were to occur and provide training to employees
  • Secure Files and Devices
    • Utilize cloud storage or an external hard drive to back up files, using encryption for especially important/private information
    • Use strong passwords
      • Consumer Reports recommends using at least 16 characters and using a password manager rather than reusing passwords across multiple accounts and services.
    • Set software to update automatically (anti-virus protection, other apps, web browsers, operating systems)
  • Secure Network and Internet Connections

More from these resources:

Increase Transparency with Customers

Data Transparency: Provides customers with an inside look in how their data is collected and used. This creates trust between your customers and your business

  1. Create a culture of transparency
    • As a part of your assessment, an internal review of data culture is important. From the top-down, implement procedures that allow for transparency with your employees, also passing this along to customers. Be open about how data is used, and be sure to develop a data and security statement for your website.
  2. Be Responsible with Customer Data
    • When collecting data, there is a tendency to ask for as much as you can. In your assessment, identify what data you need to best serve your customers, and only collect what is needed. You can also commit to securely storing customer information through a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track and store data.
  3. Own up when you make a mistake
    • Mistakes are going to happen, but customers need to be made aware. Move quickly to provide information about the situations, the plan for resolution, and continue to provide updates as they are needed. This will help to ensure that customers are informed and that you can move on more quickly. Make sure to elaborate on how you are taking steps to ensure the mistake will not happen again.
  4. Keep customers informed
    • Communication is not only important after you make a mistake, but also in general for developing a relationship with your customers. Inform customers of changes – good or bad – that are happening with your business. This includes changes in costs/services, policies or procedures, sales, special events, and more.
    • Cisco recommends that customers are made aware of relevant privacy laws and their rights, as it found that customers have greater trust in organizations that provide this information.
    • Transparency policies not only reassure customers but also assist in distinguishing your company from competition. If you always have your clients' best interests in mind, they will trust you more and continue to do business with you.

More from these resources:

Data Privacy Week takes place annually, spreading awareness about online privacy for individuals and organizations. The goal is twofold: to help citizens understand that they have the power to manage their data and to help organizations understand why it is important that they respect their users' data.

The National Cyber Security Alliance offers tips to help individuals and businesses better protect data, available at


Data Privacy Tips for Households

Protect Your Network, Protect Your Family!

Not all disasters are environmental. There’s no end to the ways scammers will try to steal personal information, including children's information. That’s why Consolidated employs best in class network security measures and works hard to educate customers and employees on data security best practices.

In addition, Consolidated Communications urges individuals to take proactive steps to stay safe online. Learn More

Beef Up Your Passwords:

The longer, more complex the password, the harder to crack it! Use special characters, avoid using actual words, names, dates or repeating numbers and letters, and aim for longer password. Each additional character increases the complexity for password crackers. Try to avoid using the same or similar passwords for everything! Also important, teach kids to use robust passwords for their online games, social media and more. Learn More

Run Those Updates:

Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, video game system, run security and operating system updates when they are available. These are your best defenses against malware and viruses. Best bet: set up your systems to automatically update.

Learn to Spot Phishing:

If an email seems a bit off, it probably is! Spelling errors, threats if you don’t act fast, sender email addresses that look a suspicious are all classic signs of a phishing attempt. If you’re being asked to provide or confirm passwords, logins, or provide personal information through an email, you’re probably being phished!

Careful What You Share:

Look at all your social media profiles together. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more, how much could a stranger find out about you or your family? Scammers can find out a LOT about you just from your postings on social media. Names, birthdays, even the café you like to visit can be used by scammers to target you or your loved ones. Keep your information private and be cautious of what you share publicly!

Make it a habit to walk your kids through their own social sharing and in-game chat histories. Show them how information from different sources could be used if it got into the wrong hands.

On the Go, Beware the WiFi:

If you hand your kid a smart phone, tablet, or portable gaming device to keep them occupied in public, watch out! Using a public or open WiFi has inherent risks. When logging on in public, avoid any sensitive online activities, like entering passwords, or accessing banking and financial information. Scammers can pull data from unsecured networks.

Stay Safe Online Resources

Tips for Parents on Raising Privacy-Savvy Kids

The last two years have seen more kids, and younger kids, spending more time online than ever before. Between remote learning, remote socializing and streaming entertainment, children’s screen time has doubled to a whopping 7.7 hours a day.

With all that time online, helping kids protect their personal data has never been more important. There’s a lot parents can do to help their kids learn good online hygiene from modelling safe behavior to talking to their kids about online activities.

Some tips to get you started


Visit to learn more about Data Privacy Week and how you can help your kids, friends, family, coworkers and community stay safe online.

Data Privacy in a Growing Internet of "Me"

As people bring more of their lives online, the amount of personal data we share has grown exponentially. Fitness trackers, music subscription services, WiFi thermostats, payment apps, smart TVs, personal assistant devices and more all collect data on their users. This goes far beyond the information you entered into a form to sign up for a new service. Think about what a bad actor could learn about you, your family and your life simply by seeing the data collected online. It can be alarming.

Learn More

Making Your Remote Office Secure

It Was the Best of Times...It Was the Worst of Times

It may be hard to think about any benefits from COVID, but more companies implementing work-from-home polices is perhaps one of them.

Learn More

Whose Text Message Is That Anyway

Is that text from Mom or...?

We all know about phishing scams, right?

When a scammer uses a text instead of an email, it’s just another kind of phishing attack called a “smish,” short for SMS phish. “SMS” stands for “short message service” and is the technical term for the text messages you receive on your phone.

Learn More

Top 3 Cybersecurity Tips

Consolidated Communications' Network Security Director Offers Top 3 Cybersecurity Tips


Stay Safe Online Resources


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