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The trove of trust: How security and data privacy underpin quality

25 June 2020 | Enrique Pena

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something. It is often seen as the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation. In reality, trust is typically earned from demonstrable actions over time and not provided blindly.

In a way, trust is a currency, and it can accrue over time. It can come and go, it can be destroyed, and it can be created. Ultimately, trust must be backed by something as well. When it comes to data privacy and security, companies that misuse personal data will lose the trust of their customers.

In a 2019 study of over 10,000 respondents by IBM and HarrisPoll, 85% had expressed that businesses should be more actively protecting their data. Additionally, only 20% completely trust organisations they interact with to maintain the privacy of their data. Digital services consumers are increasingly concerned over their data privacy and security when deciding what products and services to use. The same study reveals that organisation’s data privacy policies impact a customer's decision to purchase their products. In fact, 75% of respondents said they would not buy a product, no matter how great the product is, from a company who they believed would not protect their data.

These numbers are especially important to understand when individuals rely on multiple computer and mobile applications that collect data about their content, behaviours, activities, movements, contacts and interactions with them. The collection of such data is enabled when onboarding users to apps and services. People are signed up under legal contracts that allow businesses to do so. By accepting an app's end-user licence, you are practically transferring all your rights of your content and metadata to the provider. The collected and aggregated personal data held in private firms' data troves is compiled with other sources, analysed, exchanged and monetised. In the wrong hands, this data can be crossed-linked to identify individuals, putting their security at risk. Moreover, this can have business and government employees expose their information about their employers' objectives and strategies. Thus, governments are also vulnerable when user data held by careless commercial firms can be hacked or stolen.

Don’t put cyber in the backlog

The ongoing digitisation of commerce and government services are driving businesses and nations to refresh their services to attract people and drive growth continually. Their focus is in a speedy time-to-market. This amplifies continuous change at an increasing velocity while in many cases letting security and data privacy measures be in the backlog. And this is exactly when organisations need to consider how they execute these strategic trends securely to generate trust.

The reason why it is time to check your organisation's digital strategy and the state of its cyber hygiene is that consumers are already aware their personal information is valuable. Your competition is already addressing it. Smart enterprises recognise the increasing risk of securing and managing personal data, and governments are implementing strict legislation to ensure they do. If your organisation operates in the B2B market, your customers are way ahead and acting already.

Offer customers more transparency

Awareness is already widespread and actively discussed in the media and not only because of cases like the infamous Facebook/Cambridge Analytica breach but also because of government level breaches. For instance, when in early 2019, German politics, media and entertainment circles were shaken up by an extensive personal data leak. In the latter, links to download personal data of German politicians, journalists and entertainers were spread through a Twitter account. The data included the personal details of European parliamentarians, a huge cache of documents, phone numbers, addresses, internal party documents, credit card details and private chats.

Business users and consumers are certainly taking privacy more seriously, and there is a real evolution in their understanding of the role data plays in our lives. They are actively seeking to learn more to make better and educated purchase decisions. When it comes to increasing an organisation's trove of trust currency, organisations tend to tick the box in implementing technical solutions on privacy and data security to be compliant. But because buyers are shopping for cyber knowledge, compliance has to be combined with solid awareness among users on how the weight of cybersecurity and data privacy play a central role in your organisation's products and services and how they affect users directly.

Aim to be digitally trustworthy

Trust builds up when digital service providers educate users to safely use their online platforms and other apps that store their personal data. Real awareness is only created through repeated efforts too, and there is a lot to tell as well: how data is protected, how it is gathered, how it is used, all those critical fundamental ideas around data. And more so around the resilience of the capabilities that are there. Continuous transparency, awareness creation and knowledge sharing of your organisation's entire digital value chain are key when gaining trust from your audience.

It pays out too. Trustworthiness is a critical factor in driving revenue and profitability has been measured, and there are numbers to back this up, for this year specifically. Gartner Research says that digitally trustworthy companies will generate 20% more online profit than those that aren't. Trust is especially crucial for those that have traditionally not been digital and are now executing strategies to transform their businesses and services. Legacy businesses -- including those of governments -- undergoing digital transformation need to explicitly think about how security, data protection and privacy play a foundational role in continuing to build that trust that they have developed over the years. For countries to be prosperous, citizens must be able to trust that the government ensures digital operations are secure, safe and authentic. Without citizen trust, primary government functions like collecting taxes or managing health care will be questioned and put at risk.

Validate your trust assumptions

Security and data privacy are critical components of the broader concept of software integrity. This essentially means that the software will execute according to its design and purpose, which translates to quality. For businesses and countries that want to play leading roles in the global digital markets, focusing on building trust through security and data privacy will equal to product and service quality, and eventually to a solid brand reputation.

Contact us at Digital14, and we can help you take steps to validate your trust assumptions and make enhancements to help ensure that trust can be maintained before it is broken.

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