For digital marketing, customer data is an essential piece of the puzzle to making exciting campaigns. The data teaches you all about your customers: who they are, what they like and don’t like about your business, and what they want from you in the future. But nowadays, customer data has become a highly coveted resource for cybercriminals who want to use this information for criminality. For this reason alone, how you collect and handle customer data should be central to your daily work. This article will go through seven tips digital marketers can use to protect customer data. You will learn the best practices in collecting and storing information and ways to mitigate any damage in the event of a data breach.

Why is Protecting Customer Data Important?

Criminals are targeting businesses of every size to seize customer data. Not only can this lead to fraud, but it can cause massive reputational damage to the company. Take Facebook, for instance, which in 2019 suffered a breach that exposed over 500 million users, exposing personal emails, phone numbers, and geolocations. Hackers went on to post the customer data for free on a forum, which can be used to impersonate and defraud users, even to this day.

The sad reality is that criminals can target the customer data of any business, big or small. With that in mind, below are seven tips for protecting customer data in digital marketing.

Minimise Your Data Capture

One of the best ways of protecting customer data is through data minimization. It is when a business only collects relevant customer data and retains it for as long as necessary. The data is deleted afterward.

While many digital marketers think collecting lots of information is better, they unknowingly add considerable risks to their work, which can amplify the damage of a breach. Not only can the data be more challenging to protect and store, but there’s a chance that the additional data will be useless to the business. In the event of a data breach, all this “useless” data could add significant costs and jeopardise your reputation in the eyes of your customers.

Set up Web Content Filtering

Set up web content filtering

Another effective way of protecting your customer data is by introducing web content filtering. This is when an employer controls access to specific online content, including websites and emails.

The aim is to proactively block malicious or inappropriate websites, thus reducing the likelihood of a cyberattack. Employers can use various methods, including blocking individual URLs, categories of sites, or keyword filtering.

The core benefits of web content filtering include:

  • Phishing scams: By approving official websites, employees will not fall for ‘fake’ or copycat websites designed to trick them into divulging sensitive information.
  • Malware: Employers can restrict access to websites known for distributing malware or which may have inappropriate content.
  • Respond quickly: By monitoring web activity, a business can quickly identify the root cause of the breach and mitigate potential damage.
  • Boost productivity: Web content filtering can also boost productivity and efficiency, as employees cannot access non-work related or data-intensive websites.
  • Become compliant: Many industries prone to breaches, such as healthcare and education, may require web content filtering by law to protect customer data.

Restrict Access to Customer Data

The more employees have access to customer data, the more risk of a data breach. For this reason, it’s wise to create different roles within your workplace that segment who can read and edit customer data.

Some employees might have access to specific information, like customer support needing financial details, whereas marketing teams might want demographics. By segmenting these permissions and only allowing them access to the data they need, you can mitigate risk in a breach. If their accounts are compromised, not every customer detail has been exposed.

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Finally, it is best practice to periodically review permissions and revoke access if the employee or team is no longer working on said data. Additionally, customer data should have a retention period, so erase out-of-date data as soon as possible.

Invest in Critical Cybersecurity Infrastructure

As new cyber threats emerge daily, digital marketers must use various cybersecurity tools to protect their online activity. One simple mistake could lead to a breach of your customer’s data.

So, what exactly should marketers use to bolster their defences? Consider these essential tools:

  • Antivirus software: This software can actively scan files and remove harmful malware that aims to steal customer data.
  • Firewall: This protects your business systems against unauthorised access.
  • Multi-factor authentication: This requires employees to verify their identity through single-use codes, authenticators, or security questions, preventing a hacker from gaining access to accounts.
  • Password managers: This software can create, encrypt, and enter strong passwords, safeguarding all your logins.

Digital marketers should remember to update cybersecurity software regularly. It ensures you have all the latest information, software performs at its best, and new threats are kept at bay.

Use Encryption to Safeguard Customer Data

Use Encryption to Safeguard Customer Data

Encryption is one of the best ways of protecting customer data. This is when information is encoded, and if intercepted by a hacker, it makes it impossible for them to understand the data. There are many ways of encrypting data in your business. For example, using TLS/SSL certificates can guarantee that the information customers enter on your website remains secure. Similarly, a virtual private network (VPN) encrypts internet connections, protecting online activity from being intercepted.

While there are a variety of encryption tools to use, marketers must remember that there are two core stages of customer data to protect:

  • Data in Transit: When data moves from one location to another, such as through the internet, from one device to another, or across a network.
  • Data at Rest: When data is not moving and stored on hard drives, flash drives, PCs, or laptops.

Take Regular Backups and Protect them Accordingly

While prevention is always the best option, sometimes a data breach can occur, and you may only have 72 hours or less to report it. Time is of the essence.

A backup of customer data is a valuable way of knowing what was stored and what wasn’t. In the event of a ransomware attack, which locks you out of your systems, backups allow you to speed up your reaction to an attack, communicate with customers, and reduce reputational damage.

Remember that backups need to be protected from cyberattacks, too, and should not be kept for longer than needed.

Review Legislation

If you’re wondering whether you’re doing enough to protect customer data, you should review privacy laws in your country and where your customers are based.

Generally, the General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) is one of the most comprehensive and robust privacy laws worldwide. Although it’s a European law, businesses must adhere to it if customers or data collected originate from here. As such, reviewing it can help ensure your compliance with other jurisdictions.

There are seven principles to adhere to with GDPR, which range from being transparent and fair with customers, ensuring accurate data collection and your collection, and ensuring appropriate levels of security are put on data to protect it.


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