The convergence of data privacy and digital trust

Jodi Daniels is a privacy consultant and founder/CEO of Advisors Red Cloverone of the few Women’s Business Enterprises focused on privacy.

In an increasingly connected world, it can be easy to lose track of the vast amount of data we regularly produce, consume, or otherwise use. In fact, it can be so subtle that we completely forget about it.

Unfortunately, the devices we use for those interactions are often not designed with data privacy in mind. But without the careful application of privacy strategies and practices, companies can quickly erode digital trust between their business and consumers.

What is Digital Trust?

People want to believe that the devices they bring into their homes, the websites they shop on, and the countless other digital interactions they have every day are trustworthy. And the trust that a consumer or employee has in the protection and privacy of their data by an organization? That is digital trust.

Recall that according to a 2022 McKinsey study, 70% of consumer respondents stated that they believe companies they do business with protect their data. That is a high base level of trust.

But is that confidence misplaced? In that same study, at least one significant data breach was reported by 57% of executives’ companies over the past three years.

Consumer trust is important, but as data breaches become more and more frequent, digital trust is a delicate commodity. And the cost of losing trust can be significant. Fortunately, the merchandise of digital trust can be protected.

It’s time to focus on data privacy.

In a highly competitive digital ecosystem, companies need to maintain the trust of their consumers and prioritizing privacy is one of the best ways to do that.

According to the most recent Pew research on privacy, 55% of the people are willing to share their information with companies in exchange for free services, but 91% “agree” or “strongly agree” that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies. And while the majority of people start out with a place of digital trust with companies, they are more than willing to take action if that trust is broken.

About half of American consumers have actually stopped using a product or service due to privacy concerns. So, what can a privacy-motivated organization do to improve its privacy posture?

Differentiate your business with digital confidence.

According to the McKinsey survey mentioned above, companies that profile themselves as digital trust leaders tend to be ahead of others and are 13% less likely to experience adverse events and 1.6 times more likely than the global average to see sales and EBIT (earnings) before interest and taxes) rates in excess of 10%.

But where does digital trust meet digital practice? When it comes down to it, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for digital trust. Instead, digital trust is built from numerous actions companies take over time. For example:

Plan together.

Privacy programs should not exist in a silo. In order for processes and working methods to be sustainable and aligned with the objectives of the organization, the involvement of all departments is necessary. In addition, you need the support of leadership and stakeholders to ensure everyone has the resources they need, from training support to appropriate budgets.

Collaboration is also key to establishing a strong privacy culture within your organization as part of a sustainable privacy program.

Recognize that privacy regulations do not equate to digital trust.

Knowing privacy law requirements is important to avoid compliance issues, but hear me out: Building your privacy practices around legal requirements isn’t necessarily the best way to build digital trust.

Regulations are constantly changing and you don’t want to get caught chasing you. Instead of relying solely on legal requirements to guide your privacy program, consider implementing a privacy-by-design (PBD) framework.

PBD is based on a proactive, transparent, and user-centric approach that makes privacy the default setting for businesses. As a result, your company has standard processes and practices that promote digital trust, rather than processes and practices that strive for the bare minimum.

Train your staff on privacy best practices.

You can set up the most detailed, comprehensive privacy program in the history of privacy programs, but you won’t get very far if your employees don’t know what to do with it or why they should care.

Training all of your employees is essential to building trust with consumers. The more knowledge everyone on your team has about privacy policies, the more effective your privacy efforts will be.

To ensure that your staff is fully trained on privacy awareness and best practices for the roles they perform, you should provide regular guidance on the following.

• Why privacy awareness is important.

• Relevant legal requirements.

• How to handle personal information.

• Individual entitlement processes.

• Best practices for data management and security.

• How to identify and manage risks.

A few important notes, though. Privacy training should be ongoing. It’s not enough to ask your team to go through a PowerPoint presentation once a year and call it good. Privacy awareness is an ongoing part of their job, so treat it that way.

I encourage you to regularly send policy updates, create a knowledge base of privacy best practices, and make sure they understand the why behind privacy as much as they understand the how.

Share your good privacy work.

Building any kind of trust requires communication. Do you tell your customers what steps you take to protect their personal information? If so, they may not know they can trust you.

Has your company recently implemented a preference center? Make sure everyone is aware of it. Have your employees recently followed a new privacy training course? Share that information.

There are plenty of opportunities to spread the good news about your good privacy work – don’t forget about them.

Align trust and privacy with the right strategies.

Digital trust is not something that is built overnight. Neither is a privacy program. But given how closely the two are intertwined, it’s clear that companies can no longer hit the pause button on these critical business issues. It may seem like a big undertaking, but with the right steps you can position your business as one your customers will trust.


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