Balance Between Customized Experiences And Consumer

Introduction

In the contemporary society, digitalization has revolutionised the data provided by consumers to different companies. This move has led to a more customized customers' experience with various companies which leads to more satisfaction when purchasing the products. Companies usually access their clients' data mostly on credit cards, their names, occupations and their home addresses so that they can improve their services such as offering online sales and making deliveries. As a result, most consumers find shopping easy and convenient to some extent. However, there is a big downside of offering data to companies as it is usually prone to misuse by not only the company workers but also other people with unauthorized access (Martin, Borah and Palmatier 2017). This leads to unfortunate events such as cyberbullying, credit card fraud, hacking of more information, blackmail, staking, amongst others. While most countries have laws that protect the consumers, most companies usually underestimate the importance of data protection and this leads to the loss of misuse of clients' data.

Importance of the Research

The research is important as it elucidates how companies can lead to the exposure of their clients' data in their daily activities. Data protection has been one of the most important things in the contemporary society as it controls a big aspect of people's lives. Protecting companies' data has become more difficult not only because if the hackers but also because of the risk from the employees. Research by Martin and Murphy (2017), shows that hackers are not the primary cause of the loss of data by companies but it is usually employees that manipulate and take the companies' data out and at an alarming rate. Notably, the employees do not always misuse the companies' data maliciously but nonetheless, their actions can result in extensive damages to both the clients and the company (Laudon &Laudon 2014). The loss might range from the loss of confidential information offered by the clients to exposing the company's data to the competitors hence losing its competitive advantage. The fact that there is an increase in the volume of electronic data possessed by the companies has made companies more vulnerable to exposure of their data. Additionally, in companies with a high employee turnover, it is likely that one of the employees will slip away with some of the company's data and use it inappropriately (Laudon & Laudon 2014). Notably, there are many ways through which the company's data can be accessed which includes remote access or using devices at the workplace. This makes it hard for the legal environment to keep track of how the company is using its data. It also becomes hard for the company to track how the corporate data is flowing. It is therefore important for companies to learn how to take affirmative steps that will help to track how data is being taken outside the company. Employees' poses the main threat in the exposure of companies' data as the Bureau of Labour Statistics Toossi and Torpey (2017), confirms that there is a high risk of employees taking some data with them when leaving the company and they usually plan on using the data on their new jobs. This might be perceived as the biggest risk because the companies can lose their competitive advantage. However while they can work around to regain their competitive abilities, it is hard to regain the trust of their customers once they break the trust. Additionally, they might expose their clients to more dangers and even have legal consequences for their outcomes. In other words, if a company fails to protect its data, it can lead to its downfall. It is easy for some companies to argue that they are at a lesser risk of data loss and misuse than other companies given their situation. For instance, a clothes store can argue that a hospital or a bank has more information regarding the clients and therefore they have different responsibilities of protecting the companies' data. However, considering a clothing store such as H&M Hennas & Maritz Company, which is a multinational company with its headquarters in Sweden it is easy to assume that the data collected from the clients cannot be used against them. However the fact that the company is increasingly engaging in online sales and storing more information concerning the clients online, it is important to ensure that the data stored is kept from malicious use. The research will focus on how the company can enhance the protection of the clients' data.

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Data Protection in H&M

H&M was founded in 1947 but later expanded to include men's clothing's in 1968. At that time the company usually relied on physical sales and there was only a limited amount of data stored in computers. Additionally, the technology had not advanced to high levels allowing the exclusive storage of clients' data on computers. The fact that e-commerce was nonexistence meant that the data was safe from being accessed maliciously by many people. However, over the years, the company has greatly developed and it is now among the biggest fast fashion in the world. With many branches worldwide, the company has increased its information hence putting more risk on it. Notably, the company has more than 130, 000 employees worldwide and it is located in over sixty-two countries. Additionally, in countries where there are no physical branches, the company has made it possible for its clients to order their products online and have them delivered through a courier system. This has made it possible for the company to greatly expand both in its market share but also in its revenue. The company has established several policies to ensure that the data collected from the clients' is protected but this has been hard to some extent. The company collects the consumers' data on many fronts Toossi and Torpey (2017). First, through online purchases, having an H&M account, contacting customer service or joining the H&M Club. The type of data collected by the company includes name, age, and location of the clients, credit card information, and the shopping history of the customers. The company has also created a system whereby the consumers' have control of the data posted to the companies. However, the company has been more focused on the clients' role in protecting the data without considering the role of the employees in protecting the employees' data.

The employees' manage the customers' data throughout many processes such as sales, marketing, customer service and delivery of the products. Although the company's data is stored within the European Economic Area, it can be taken to another country in course of service delivery to the clients. However, the company cannot confidently state that it is certain that all people access the data for valid reasons. It is important for the company to have a good security system that offers a 360 degree view of all the data leaving and entering the companies' database as this way, it will be possible for the company to control and protects sensitive information regarding the customer (Čertanec 2018). If H&M is able to understand that data well, it will be possible to set good policies that make sure that the data is protected well.

Like many companies in the fashion industry, H&M has a system that protects data from external intruders by the incorporation of a various security system in the company. However, it does not have a specific policy to control against data theft and accidental disclosure of sensitive information by the company's employees or business associates. Mishandling of data has been considered to be a major defect of many employees across companies. According to Nill and Aalberts (2014), a considerable amount of attacks usually involve insiders in companies and this is usually hard to track given that the people who use the data to attack the clients have a legitimate access of the data involved. However, like many companies, H&M does not consider itself a target against its own employees and therefore fail to have an efficient way of dealing with data loss by its own employees. For instance, the company can argue that Uber is more prone to data mismanagement because it involves tracking the movement of the clients while H&M only enquire about the location of the employees (Malhotra and Kubowicz Malhotra 2011). However, the company seems to ignore the fact that the employees can use such information to stalk the clients or expose the clients' data to other people. Therefore, protecting the clients' data will ensure that if there is any access that is made by employees that are not required to process given information by the client, the company is notified and able to address the situation before it escalates to a data security issue.

Many companies have been victims of data breaching and this depicts that every company should be aware of such possible turnout. This has led to not only legal consequences but also led to the loss of many customers to their rivals (Pearlson & Saunders 2013). A good example is how Yahoo exposed their clients' data to third parties and as a result, most of the customers turned to its competitors such as Google (Čertanec 2018). Notably, it is hard for a company to identify data breach on the spot and as a result, by the time the unfortunate event is realized, a lot of damage is usually done. Additionally, many countries are concerned about the ability of companies to protect the clients' data and this has increased the importance of ensuring that the customers' data is protected from any possible malice. Although H&M does not have incidences of data malice, it is a possible situation and therefore it is important for the company to ensure that all data is protected from within and outside the company.

How Data Is Misused In Companies

Data is usually necessary for most shopping experiences around the globe. This as earlier stated has been a major source of data misuse. Such instances have derailed the developer of e-commerce as more people are concerned about the safety of their data when they offer it to different companies. One of the major ways through which data is misused is through improper profiling. For instance, by hacking counselling centres, it is possible to access data from several rape victims that have attended the centres and this can lead to the wrong judgement about them. Considering H&M through algorithmic profiling, it is possible for employees or other intruders to get details of the clients and even target them for unfair profiling (Kumar and Reinartz 2018). For instance, they can profile against the big size people purchasing produces from the company and use it body shame them on the internet. They can also attack them using the information, something that might amount to cyberbullying. This can not only lead to legal action against the company but also reduces the number of clients three company has.

Clients' data can also be misused in a way that encourages discrimination in the provision of services by the employees’. As an international company, H&M has global clients and this depicts that there is a mixture of different cultures in the workplace and in the clients' data place. Some of the employees or outside intruders might be suffering from the superiority complex and can even go further and use the data to discriminate against people who are from different cultures. For instance, an employee in Europe who has a great dislike for Africans might use the data to discriminate against t the Africans by delaying or stopping their orders. Likewise using the information gotten from the system, they can access the location of a client and participate in hate crimes. That said, the fact that people give their data to companies make them more vulnerable to attacks especially if they belong to a minority group.

H&M collects a lot of data from clients especially when the clients want to have an account with the company. However, with the big amount of data being collected, there is usually a room for error and this can lead to more unfortunate results. Most people usually ignore the mistakes because they usually involve petty things that can be easily corrected. However an error in the credit card credentials, whether accidental or intentional can lead to more losses for the clients. It can also lead to the exposure of more information as the credit card company can withhold the use of the card until the client can verify that he or due owns the card hence affecting other areas of their lives (Keyes 2016). Employees especially those in the information technology department have the advantage of being exposed more to data analysis and the security system of the company. This gives them a big opportunity to use the knowledge they have over the client and the more data the client gives, the more exposed they will be.

As earlier stated H&M stores its data within the European Economic Area. However, the company usually outsource the data to a third party provider to complete some processes. Notably, there is some data that can be stored in remote serves and this can lead to the exposure to unscrupulous groups. As a result, in case the data is compromised the company can expose a big number of their clients. This can be attributed to a lax security but other times, the company might not be at fault although they are still expected to take responsibility for the said data (Beynon-Davies 2013). This can lead to unfortunate events such as blackmail, social damage, or identity theft. It is important to note that if such a situation happens, the company might be held liable for the loss and face legal or financial repercussion.

There is a lot of social and political harm that can be done through disseminated information. Data breaching can lead to social or political manipulation. An unscrupulous employee might be lured into offering data about clients from a given area for the sake of political gains. It is important to note that if someone's data is exposed to many companies, they can influence many of their lives choices (Čertanec 2018). This greatly includes the political choices made by people. In case a person realizes that their data has been given out by one of the companies where they shop, they might decide to quit the company or worse still take legal action against the company.

How to Protect the Clients’ Data from Misuse

The study, therefore, explains the importance of considering possible sources of misuse of data and how they can affect clients. It is therefore important to elucidate ways of protecting data from misuses by both the employees' and outside intruders. One way through which the company can protect the clients' data from misuse is by recognizing and prioritizing confidential information. Many companies fail to understand how to control information and how to give some information more weight than others. By checking the consumers' record, a company can accurately identify valuable and confidential information about the consumers because there are few changes done to the system if any (Ferrell 2017). This includes personal identification information such as name, age, gender and credit card numbers. Such information should be limited to only a few employees wh0o have proven that they can be trusted. Other information that might belong to the consumer such as login history to the company's website can be accessed by the customer care department to enable them to serve the customers in a better way. Prioritizing such information will reduce the risk of data misuse by the employees or outside intruders. It is also crucial for the company to monitor data access, especially by its employees. According to Nill and Aalberts (2014), data access is usually among the first points through which data is misused. Employees and other people such as sub-contractors usually have access to data that is confidential. For instance, in H&M, an employee might have an issue with processing the data f a given customer and ask for help from another employee. In the course of exchange, the other employee might access information that he or she was not supposed to have. After that, the company delivering the order to the client might be given more information than they need to make a delivery and this exposes the employees even further (Chaffey 2012).

It is also crucial for the company to monitor data access, especially by its employees. According to Nill and Aalberts (2014), data access is usually among the first points through which data is misused. Employees and other people such as sub-contractors usually have access to data that is confidential. For instance, in H&M, an employee might have an issue with processing the data f a given customer and ask for help from another employee. In the course of exchange, the other employee might access information that he or she was not supposed to have. After that, the company delivering the order to the client might be given more information than they need to make a delivery and this exposes the employees even further (Chaffey 2012). Therefore it is important for the company to ensure that it has monitored every access point of the data. The simplest way of doing this is by creating a log of the people who log in in clients' data and their reasons for doing so. Given that this might still create a loop in the system especially when the employees' are sharing accounts in the company. Having software's for data protection might be another way through which the company can successfully access the data. The software's can be programmed to show the workflows and identify the major processes that contain confidential information and the people who deal with the information (Turban &Volonino 2012). By understanding the chain of events the company will be able to detect if there is something that does not add up to the company's stated procedures and deal with it accordingly.

Another way through which data can be protected from misuse is by ensuring that the employees have signed an agreement form on the use of the clients' data in the company. When hiring the employees, the company should make it clear of how important securing data is to them and how the employees should ensure that there is no breach in that agreement. Upon being hired to the company, the employee should be trained to handle the clients' data and have a password to their accounts to ensure that they will be able to explain any possible breach detected by the security management department (Chaffey 2012). Moreover, there should be legal consequences that the employees' are aware of if they meddle with the clients' data and this will greatly increase their responsibility when handling the data (Jean, Sinkovics and Hiebaum 2014) If an employee wishes to live the company, the company should clearly access the last activities done by the employee and in case there is a possibility of a data breach, the company should question the company even if it is through the legal process. Additionally, the employee's account should be deleted and several changes should be made to other employees' to ensure that the data remains safe.

As a fashion company, it is evident that the main concern of the company is not in the management of information system and this might make the company a close target of data manipulators. The company can employ an IT team whose main duty is to control how information moves around the company and how the company can increase the security of the information. The team will efficiently develop reliable defences that will protect outside and inside threats of data misuse. However, it is important for H&M to first understand the risk that the company is facing and from that create a good and layered security measurement. Other software's that the company can use to ensure the security of its client's data involves using antivirus creating firewalls to the company's data. The employees should be warned against using none trusted software's and the systems should be frequently updated to ensure that they use the latest security measures in the market hence enhancing their protective measures (Turban &Volonino 2012). It is also important for the company to understand that protecting the clients' data is a perpetual activity since hackers keep on developing new tactics of hacking data and without knowledge, it is possible that the company can be overtaken by hackers leading to the loss of their customers and the loss of their competitive advantage.

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Conclusion

Protecting a company's data is essential for both the clients and the company. Over the years, the increased digitalizing has made more companies be exposed to data manipulation and this usually affects the clients. While many companies protect data from manipulation by outside sources, a significant manipulation of data is usually done by insiders in the company. Notably, if the company's data is misused, it can lead to the exposure of the clients to financial loss, cyber-attacks, discrimination, racial profiling amongst other unfortunate events. This might not only lead to legal action against the company but also the loss of loyal and potential customers of the company. In that regard, it is evident that the company needs to protect its database from misuse. Understanding the confidential information and protecting it is usually a perpetual journey and the company needs to keep updating its database to ensure that it matches the level of security provided in the industry. Considering H&M, it can protect its clients' data through understanding the data it has, ensuring that there is appropriate access, and distribution of the data and monitoring how the employees are using the clients' data. Moreover, there should be legal consequences for any employee who is found guilty of the data breach in the company. Additionally, having a strong IT system will ensure that the company can detect any attempts by frauds to access the company's data and stop it before it happens.

References List

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