It goes without saying that companies – whether they are healthcare ones, buying debts or selling them or a search engine like Google – harvest data and therefore take on the responsibility for how it is protected.The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an organisation set up by the U.S. government to promote consumer protection, frequently creates and revises data safeguards that companies must follow. Data compliance is one of the purposes of the Commission as its regulations attempt to ensure that the information collected by companies adheres to their pointers. The details of a company’s responsibility for data protection are what the FTC guidelines are there to show. Consequently, the safeguards put in place by the FTC are vital in ensuring the privacy of consumers is maintained to prevent serious collateral damage if a database is breached. A specific set of suggestions are given by the FTC and can be found on their website tailored to specific business industries. One universal piece of advice that the Commission gives to companies is to hold only as much data as they need. This is to ensure that if a breach were to take place, floods of intensive data on certain consumers would not be released; ultimately protecting their privacy. Moreover, the FTC also advises companies to inform customers on how their personal information will be used. Encouraging this kind of openness leads to greater consumer trust – after all, honesty is the best policy. Telling consumers exactly how their personal data will be used is a way of ensuring companies don’t engage in any dubious activities and is most definitely good for business. Autonomy is another of the FTC’s suggestions. It suggests that companies should allow consumers options when it comes to their personal privacy. This is similar to the concept of providing information to consumers on how data will be used in that consumers are given the full picture – and in this case the reins – of their privacy and the company’s safeguards in place. Of course, there are issues with the FTC simply suggesting these things to businesses. Anyone with some knowledge of how businesses work (and possessing a bit of natural skepticism) will wonder if companies will actually be honest about complying with these rules. How you can know if companies are doing so? That is why compliance audits – reviews of an organisation’s adherence to guidelines – are carried out. Independent bodies often officially inspect if companies are complying with the rules. Compliance audits are essential in making sure companies aren’t ignoring problems (and the rules), as well as in helping to enforce the protection of consumers. The real reason it matters if a company is complying with the rules or not is because of the issue of data security. When consumers hand over private and personal data, they rightly expect it to be something kept out of the public domain. However, the Internet has made that an increasingly difficult task. Compliance audits help to whip companies into shape; to make sure that there are sufficient digital privacy measures in place to prevent unwanted access to databases storing private data. There is a lot companies must do in order to adhere to security and privacy regulations if they are to retain their integrity and please consumers. In order for a business to work efficiently, there always has to be something in it for both parties: the company itself and consumers. In this case, the FTC seeks to ensure that the data on consumers is protected by guiding businesses in the right direction. In addition to this, compliance audits in the name of data security also help ensure the privacy of customers. Following the suggestions and allowing investigations into a business’s data compliance creates a positive atmosphere for all involved. Read more about security and privacy compliance in this section.