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customer protectionInternet companies need to build consumer privacy and data controls into their online services to protect their brands, gain trust from their users, avoid civil lawsuits and prevent government probes, according to two regulators from the U.S. and Canada.

For those reasons, privacy and data protection can’t be an afterthought for businesses, even if they are small Web startups without an in-house legal department, the two officials said on Tuesday at Web 2.0 Summit.

“I’m the guy you don’t want to see, and frankly I don’t want to see you either,” said David Vladeck, director of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, after jokingly comparing his role to that of a gym teacher at a high school prom. “You need to be sensitive to privacy and data concerns,” he added.

Among his tips: Businesses shouldn’t collect data they don’t need, and they shouldn’t hold on to the data they do collect for longer than they need to. Both mistakes increase the company’s vulnerability to data breaches that make them liable to legal and regulatory sanctions and that hurt their customers, he said.

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“Workzmarter not harder”

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