What Your Contact Data Provider Isn’t Telling You...

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…And Why It Could Cost Your Business

How would you react if you learned that an app on your cellphone was secretly downloading all your phone numbers, including those of your significant other, children, and friends? What if you then found out they were selling those phone numbers to tele marketers, who would use them to start selling to you and your contacts? Your contacts are no longer private, they are being sold to whoever is willing to pay.

At first, you would probably be in denial. They wouldn’t dare do so, and if they did, you would go on a Twitter rant and be the top trending topic within minutes. But what if that seemingly smart phone of yours is in fact that bold and deceitful?

Yikes!! I’m guessing you would be upset. The good news is the smart phone scam is a little far-fetched, even though it may not feel so at times. (I’m convinced my phone is listening to me.)

Unfortunately, it’s another story for B2B sales and marketing professionals because this type of scenario is very real. One of the most common and questionable approaches over the last few years comes in the form of a “free” contact data plug-in.

These plug-ins are super easy to enable, and you might not even know you did it. “Just click here” to provide access to everyone you email and everyone that emails you. And even if you don’t sign-up to buy additional “new” contacts, the always-on trojan horse has entered your computer. This means you’ve effectively unleashed an application that inhales every contact record you have in Outlook or Gmail and every email that comes in or goes out from that platform.

Yes, every email exchange with your customers, prospects, suppliers, partners, friends and family. I’m not a lawyer, but that could be a data privacy violation waiting to happen and certainly a cybersecurity risk that your CEO, Legal, Security departments, Board of Directors, and Investors don’t want to have trending on Twitter.

So, how do you protect yourself and your company?

  1. If anyone in your organization has used a service that has an Outlook or Gmail plug-in that harvests contact information from your inbox, there is a good chance you are bleeding data right now. And if anyone you emailed has installed a data harvesting plug-in, they may be sharing your data right now!
  2. Bad news doesn’t get better with age so act now to keep a bad situation from getting worse. Ask your security department if they are following best practices by blocking unauthorized plug-ins from Outlook and Gmail. Ask your Legal department if your data providers are using questionable data collection practices.
  3. Ask these important questions of every current and future data partner/supplier:
    • Where is your contact data sourced from and how often do you update it?
    • Can you tell me about the data laws and regulations you comply with? How are you preparing to comply with the California Consumer Protection Act and how are you complying with the General Data Protection Regulation?
    • Is data sourced ethically, legally, and in a way that does not introduce undue risk to customers or prospects?
      • How do you verify the quality of your data?
      • How do you ensure data is kept private and secure?

For a PDF of these questions, download our helpful guide.

Here at Dun & Bradstreet, we believe ethical business practices and growth can be part of the same equation. We’re also humbled and proud to be known as one of the world’s most ethical companies by Ethisphere Institute eleven years in a row. We take privacy very seriously.

Of the 500M+ contacts we aggregate each year, only 10% of them meet our strict quality, privacy and compliance thresholds and make it into the Dun & Bradstreet Data Cloud, where we update 375 million data elements each day to give you the most current view of B2B buying teams. Our ‘Privacy by Design’ approach keeps an eye out for data privacy laws as they apply regionally, nationally and locally to ensure that we follow them. As such, we are both General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant and California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) ready heading into 2020. This will become the new norm – and as your data steward, we feel it is our duty to protect you from regulatory, financial, and cybersecurity risks others may be hiding from you.

Remember - there is no magic elixir to managing data supply chain risk. So, don’t take the short cut – trust, but verify, always! Don’t fall prey to deals that sound too good to be true. They probably are, as they probably come with sketchy practices hidden in the fine print. Practices that can land you in trouble with customers and regulators alike. Come talk to us – better data sourced ethically. In future posts, we’ll describe in more detail how we source data. In the meantime, download our essential guide outlining key questions to ask your data vendors.

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