11 Questions to Ask Vendors

The following are general questions that can be a starting point for an assessment of a potential vendor.

  • Does the vendor have a published privacy policy and does it limit data sharing?
  • How adequate are the vendor’s physical and electronic controls over data? Proof of controls would include self-certification such as a SAS 70 review or other independent checking.
  • Does the vendor have appropriate administrative controls in place?
  • Does the vendor subcontract projects that use your data to other U.S. and non-U.S. vendors? If yes, are there control procedures in place and are the procedures monitored?
  • Does the vendor have a history of litigation or regulatory enforcement actions that pertain to privacy, data protection or a general lack of compliance controls?
  • Does the vendor permit you to independently verify the privacy and security procedures that are used to protect your company’s data?
  • Have you reviewed the S&P reports of the vendor? If it is a public company, have you reviewed its annual report and other financial filings?
  • Does your vendor train employees to protect the data entrusted to them by your company?
  • Are the vendor’s senior executives willing to sign a pledge of compliance that states it will take all reasonable steps to comply with the terms of the contract and privacy policy of your company?
  • Is the vendor insured or does it have fidelity bonds to cover the possibility of a privacy or data security breach?
  • Does the vendor have a live feed or online access to your company’s data as part of the contractual requirement? If yes, is there some proof that access controls, identity management and authentication are in place.

Practice Safe Outsourcing
by Dr. Larry Ponemon
Darwin Magazine, March 2004

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