But what about YOUR privacy as a business owner and individual yourself? If you Google “small business privacy” you’ll get tons of results on protecting customer privacy. But almost nothing about protecting your own.
For millions of small business owners, the lines between personal and business privacy are thin. You want your business to be famous, but that doesn’t mean you want your personal finances to be public. Nor do you want to be inundated with spam or junk mail.
In a digital world where nothing that makes its way online ever disappears, protecting privacy is increasingly difficult. But business owners are clamoring to reclaim a measure of privacy in their business and personal lives. Some of the same technology that is helping small firms compete – from social media to cloud-based software – is also putting privacy at greater risk.
And with big companies focusing more and more on the small business market, entrepreneurs are starting to react. Once largely ignored by corporate giants, small business owners have become belles of the ball. They’re constantly being pitched for one thing or another and now place a higher premium on their privacy than ever before.
Surveys show that respect for privacy has become a key deciding factor that influences business owners to select one vendor over another or to recommend a product or service provider to fellow entrepreneurs. In one survey that tested 60 different decision-making criteria, respect for privacy ranked second behind easy-to-use products or services.
Opening yourself to excessive sales pitches is only one of many small business privacy concerns. Fear of fraud or identity theft due to availability of business information is also widespread.
So what can you do as a business owner to protect yourself, your business and your privacy? Here are some privacy protection ideas and resources for business owners:
1) Know your privacy rights.
Start with guarding your personal Social Security number (SSN) more closely. When dealing with government or banking matters, your SSN may be required. But while many businesses request your SSN, you are not legally required to provide it in most cases unless it involves an IRS notification of some kind. Whenever possible, use your business Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead.
2) Make your domain registrations private.
When you register a domain name on the Internet, you’ll be asked to provide details such as your business name, address, phone number, email contact and others. That information goes into a massive database and can be one reason your email address winds up on some spammer’s list. Most leading domain registrars – such as GoDaddy, Network Solutions, 1&1, Register.com and others – let you protect your information with “private registration” services that mask your identity. It costs a small annual fee for each domain name you want to protect, but can be well worth it.
The domain registration firms listed above all have detailed information and FAQs on their websites about how private registration works.
3) Fight back against telemarketers, spam and other unwanted and intrusive ads.
When you do get a call, don’t just hang up. Ask who the caller represents and request that your name be placed on their internal do-not-call list. You can also register a number with the federal government’s National Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov). While this is geared toward home phones, you can also register a mobile phone. And with more business owners relying exclusively on their mobile device, this becomes increasingly important.
4) Be careful with social media.
The increasing use of social media can also create privacy problems. By all means be active in social media, but use common sense with what personal information you choose to reveal in your social media accounts.
5) Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
This is a great place for privacy protection advice and information. Visit www.privacyrights.org and select from topics at the left that include identity theft, junk mail and email, online privacy, Social Security numbers and more.
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