Money & Business

Editor’s Note: Data Dilemma

By / Jun 1, 2014 (a-poselenov/ThinkStock)

What Target’s retail security failings teach the rest of the business world about protecting data.

Last January, my husband and I got an unwelcome but entirely expected notification from the bank that issues our Visa credit card: Your account is at risk, and we’re shutting it down.

Thanks a million, Target.

The data breach that hit the retailer last year brought the realities of data insecurity home to an estimated 110 million Americans. The company is still reeling from the effects: Its CEO and CIO have been shown the door, and, at press time, analysts were expecting a 12 percent drop in Target’s net earnings in the first quarter of 2014. But it’s hard to feel sorry for a giant corporation with giant resources that failed to protect the trove of sensitive information its customers had entrusted to it in exchange for the privilege of spending money in its stores.

It’s a cautionary tale for every organization that does business in the internet age. As part of this issue’s special focus on technology, Mark Athitakis explores how associations are tackling the challenge of protecting the member data in their care. And although that job isn’t likely to get easier anytime soon, the value associations can glean from that data is worth the trouble of securing it. Organizations are getting savvier about leveraging what they know about members to make strategic decisions and build greater engagement. Melanie D.G. Kaplan reports on a few groups with stories to share.

What I took away from my brush with the Target breach was that my irritation over a minor inconvenience was far outweighed by my relief that my bank took good care of me before something really bad happened. If I were a member of that bank, I’d renew. And for someone who works for an association, that lesson resonates.

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop is the Editor-in-Chief of Associations Now. More »

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