Global investments in privacy protection have increased among a growing focus on cybersecurity and compliance, a new report has said.
The research from privacy software company TrustArc, conducted by Golfdale Consulting, found that companies enhanced their privacy management strategies substantially within the last year.
The 2021 Global Privacy Benchmarks Report found that 48% of companies were planning investments of $1 million or more in privacy, up from 28% in 2020.
The use of purpose-built privacy software stood out as a way companies were increasing competence and confidence in their ability to manage privacy.
In addition, more companies are creating formal privacy offices, 83% according to report, up from 67% in 2020.
Across all roles, from senior executives to full-time employees, 73% agree or strongly agree they should do more on privacy.
Furthermore, as the threat from cyberattacks and data breaches grows, many leaders are prioritising cybersecurity. The report found that 51% of respondents said that cybersecurity was their top challenge for 2021.
Additional cybersecurity threats concerning companies include reputational risks from data breaches (34%), and threats from within by employees (30%).
Among the companies surveyed, 34% said they had suffered a data breach in the last three years, and 27% a large-scale cybersecurity attack.
Compliance was another major issue for companies, with 34% saying they were concerned with compliance risks from regulatory oversights and penalties, and 30% worried about adopting new national regulations that may be introduced this year.
“Regulatory changes are being introduced at record pace and, based on the results of the Privacy Benchmarks Survey, organisations are clearly moving fast to prioritise privacy management,” said CEO of TrustArc Chris Babel.
“We’re seeing more formal process implementation specific to privacy, which further supports how privacy prioritisation is shifting, and companies are increasingly adopting purpose-built software to address ongoing needs that, without software, would present immense challenges.”
Out of all the areas surveyed, the UK expressed some of the highest confidence in ensuring employee and your customer data is secure and protected. 58% of respondents said had a great deal of confidence, higher than in Europe and the US. However, it lagged America in the percentage of companies having complete confidence, at 25% for UK companies compared to 31% of US.
However, the survey found that overall global confidence in companies’ ability to maintain privacy protection increased compared to 2020.
In total, the TrustArc Global Privacy Index median score climbed to 70% in 2021 (from 62% last year), with top quartile companies at 85% or better, up from 79%.
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To ensure companies maintain strong privacy protection, the report made a number of key recommendations.
The first is to ensure that privacy permeates day to day business decisions. The report also recommended having the Board of Directors regularly review and discuss privacy matters, along with pursuing privacy as a core part of business strategy.
In addition, the report said that every employee needs to be able to formally raise privacy issues with confidence, and that employees need to be sufficiently trained in privacy matters.
“While there’s evidence that stand-alone solutions can be effective in managing specific compliance requirements such as cookie consent, our data indicates that companies that have implemented a comprehensive strategic and reportable privacy management platform score significantly higher on the Global Privacy Index,” said co-founder and president of Golfdale Consulting Dr. Gary Edwards.
“Maintaining a privacy culture that permeates from the Board of Directors through the ranks, as well as incorporating privacy into core business strategy, were other distinguishing features of these privacy leaders.”