As data breaches are announced with more frequency, businesses have begun taking a closer look at their security. But it hasn't stopped the unauthorized flow of information.

There have been 14 data breaches reported already in 2016, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The largest to date involves Hyatt Hotels, which last month confirmed unauthorized access to payment card data from cards used onsite at a long list of Hyatt-managed locations between Aug. 13 and Dec. 8, 2015

Back in December, Landry’s Inc., a company that manages a nationwide group of well-known restaurants — including Bubba Gump, Claim Jumper, McCormick & Schmick’s, and Morton’s, acknowledged the same issue. The company is still sorting out which locations were affected.

Since 2005, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates, 895,607,545 records have been exposed from 4,720 breaches.

Let's hope your company isn't among the victims.

Looking at the Problem

Efforts to preempt data breaches can yield intriguing business decisions, especially as more companies recognize the impact it has on their brand from both an economic and reputational standpoint.

These efforts will intensify as long-accepted mechanical devices like cars become a part of the Internet of Things (IoT) economy.

Porsche, for example, recently selected to only offer Apple CarPlay, an automotive infotainment system, in the 2017 redesign of its iconic 911 Carrera sports cars rather than also offering Android Auto, another infotainment system from Google.

Many automakers have introduced both CarPlay and Android Auto formats to appeal to consumers.

Porsche, according to a Motor Trend article, felt the Android Auto system gives Google too much data, including vehicle speed and throttle position. In response, Google issued a statement, declaring that its system does not collect the data mentioned and that drivers “must opt in to share any information upon their first connection of their phone to a car.”

Regardless of the reason behind it, Porsche’s decision reflects corporate anxiety over consumers who are increasingly demanding that their recorded activities be protected.

Consumer Expectations

Two years ago, in the wake of leaks by government contractor Edward Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans’ online and phone communications, Pew Research did some digging. It found that some 86 percent of Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints.

This kind of behavior has become more commonplace. In addition, consumers tend to penalize retailers that fail to adequately protect data associated with their activity.

For example, the New York Times reported that the profit of discount department store Target fell 40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The decline was attributed to Target’s well-publicized data breach that year, one in which 40 million debit and credit cards were exposed, and caused then-CEO Gregg Steinhafel and other executive to step down.

The decision also highlights how the digitalization of product attributes can create potential branding issues — ones with long-term consequences.

If the vehicle performance data were transmitted, the data collected would put Google would be in a conflicting position — supplying a partner while receiving information that could guide its autonomous vehicle development.

While an autonomous vehicle would not likely have been a sports car, a self-driving vehicle that mimics a Porsche ride would dilute Porsche’s brand promise - vehicles that deliver a distinct driver experience.

Respect the Data

Thus, best data management practices can be integral to branding activity. When examining concerns from an analytics perspective, marketers should pay attention to two influences on data maintenance.

The over pursuit of data collection: Lowered data storage costs have made data inexpensive to keep on a database. Although storage can be valuable for record keeping, low cost solutions can also bait marketers into collecting more data than what is really needed. If there is exposure, data can be lost unnecessarily.

Maintenance on unnecessary data: This aspect is a consequence of the first influence. Data cleansing unlocks value from the data, but correcting data errors without consideration of long range needs can create extraneous effort to correct data that is seldom accessed. This maintenance is another way data can be needless included in a breach.

One way to avoid over collecting data or needless maintenance is to increase the monitoring of data placed at the “edge” of a network.

From mobile devices that communicate to other devices to point of sale tablets on retail floor, understanding where data is placed can highlight vulnerabilities and prevent theft.

That understanding can take the form of understanding how analytics solutions combine data.

Many analytic solutions can import such as the Measurement Protocol in Google Analytics and advanced solutions such as WebTrends and Adobe Analytics can import data sources and information into analytics reporting.

This means vetting data types becomes a critical path in avoiding unnecessary data collection and pass-through to down stream solutions.

With every kind of media being targeted, data breaches have become a fast way to damage a corporate-wide image if the issue is left unchecked.

But the right prevention mindset can prevent a brand’s reputation — and sales — from being lost.

Title image "think trash" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by ghedo