Corporate Social Responsibility / Organizational Strategy

Is Consumers’ Data Safe?

frank_blake

Over the past year, Target and The Home Depot have experienced attacks from hackers.  The attacks overrode their security systems to install malware on their point-of sale computers.  Hackers gained access to private consumer information by operating the corporations’ computers as if they were employees, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Consequently, consumers are wary each time they swipe their credit cards to check-out.  56 million customer credit-card accounts have been compromised.  (WSJ Banjo) Additionally, hackers located private customer information; upwards of 53 million e-mail addresses were also reported to be accessed (WSJ Banjo).  The hack has led to bad PR that could affect the firm’s reputation.

Although The Home Depot, in public statements, claimed that they took precautions to evade hacking attempts, very private consumer information was still given away. In attempt to minimize harms to their market stakeholders, Home Depot warned consumers to be cautious when opening e-mails. Hackers are likely to send offers that require victims to forfeit even more personal information. The e-mail doesn’t, however, resolve the issue of credit card accounts being compromised.  Home Depot’s now retired CEO, Frank Blake, has said: “If we rewind the tape, our security systems could have been better,” (WSJ Banjo) and additionally, “Data security just wasn’t high enough in our mission statement.” (WSJ Banjo)  Market stakeholders like consumers are very interested in privacy and keeping their information safe.  Home Depot, as a result, will be forced to implement changes to assure that investors don’t become leery of how they’ll perform in the market.

In the age of digital convenience where goods and services are readily available to us as long as we are willing to forfeit a series of numbers off of our credit cards, I ask Mr. Blake: Where exactly did data security rank in Home Depot’s mission statement?  Consumers have been forced to adapt to a process of swiping credit cards to buy nearly everything.  Having blind faith in a corporation to keep your information safe is, of course, something that the consumer may be culpable of. But consumers who weren’t born in the digital age may not understand how their information is at risk; names and credit card numbers, for example, are visible and easily accessible online with only a password entry.  Corporate mission statements, then, should make it a priority that consumers won’t be stolen from or harassed after making a purchase. Home Depot and Target should inform customers of their in-store security procedures if they don’t want exclusively online sales.  Educating consumers about what closing a batch report entails, and how their private information will be encrypted are great first steps.

Chris Estes


Sources:

Banjo, Shelly. “Home Depot Hackers Exposed 53 Million Email Addresses.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 6 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

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