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Created on 07.05.2019

How to protect customer data properly

Customer are becoming increasingly sensitive about how their personal data is handled. This is why it is no longer just major global companies that need to think carefully about protecting customer data, small and medium-sized companies in Switzerland need to do it as well. But how do you protect customer data properly? We are going to show you how data protection is regulated by law in Switzerland today.

Personal data protection in Switzerland

Lots of companies already use customer data to target their marketing. The benefit of doing this is that they are able to target customers who are genuinely interested in a product or service. As a result, customers receive fewer irrelevant offers. This is what makes protecting personal data all the more important.

What is personal data?

Personal data is essentially any information that can be used to identify a person. This includes names, e-mail addresses, ID numbers, but also other data such as IP addresses. Personal data can also be pseudo-anonymous or encrypted data that could be used to identify that person once again. Customer data can be collected online or on social networks using cookies (data saved onto your computer by a website you visit) to show the user information that is tailored specifically to them.

Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection

The use and processing of personal data is regulated by law in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Constitution states that any natural person is entitled to their personal data being protected from misuse. To guarantee this protection, the Swiss government passed the The link will open in a new window Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP), which has been in force since 1 July 1993. As a general rule, personal data may only be processed for the purposes for which it was originally obtained or in the circumstances for which it is legally intended. It may be necessary to seek permission from the person whose data is being collected depending on how it is going to be used (e.g. by having them accept a privacy policy). The Federal Act on Data Protection is currently undergoing revision.

Companies must be able to provide customers with information at any time

Once a customer has accepted the privacy policy and given written consent for their data to be used, there are other legal obligations the company must adhere to. The right to information stipulates that data file owners are obliged to provide customers with information about personal data and its usage at any time. The Ordinance to the The link will open in a new window Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection also regulates other aspects, for instance the fact that a company must provide information on all personal data as well as its usage and processing within 30 days.

The new EU data protection law

The new The link will open in a new window EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in force since 25 May 2018. The EU General Data Protection Regulation is based on what is known as the “lex loci solutionis”: companies from third countries, including Switzerland, must also follow this principle if they wish to sell goods and services in the EU or monitor the behaviour of European consumers. This European law means that companies and organizations must inform users from the outset about why their data is being collected and potentially disclosed to third parties. The users must give their express consent, and can withdraw it at any time. With the right to information, users may ask for a copy of the data collected about them at any time. The GDPR also regulates other rights such as the right to be forgotten, where users may request the deletion of personal data that has been published online without any legal basis.

Protecting customer data is becoming an increasingly important issue

Protecting customer data is a complex issue. The protection of sensitive data is not just becoming increasingly important for customers, even the legal foundations have changed in recent years. This is why companies must be proactive about data protection. It might well be worthwhile paying the occasional visit to the The link will open in a new window SME portal of the Swiss government to keep yourself up to date so you don’t miss out on any important information on changes in the law. Small companies can also find useful information in the article “IT security and data protection: small companies should avoid these mistakes” that will help them avoid making mistakes when it comes to personal data.

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