The Convergence of Data Privacy and Digital Trust

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In an increasingly connected world, it can be easy to lose perspective on the vast amount of data that we regularly produce, consume, or otherwise interact with. In fact, it can be so subtle that we may even forget about it completely.  

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, businesses 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 numerous other digital interactions they have every day are trustworthy. And the confidence a consumer or employee has in an organization’s protection and privacy of their data? 

That’s digital trust. 

Consider this stat from McKinsey: 70% of consumer respondents to a 2022 survey stated that they believe companies they do business with protect their data. That’s a high baseline level of trust! 

But is that trust misplaced? In that same study, 57% of executives report that their organizations suffered at least one material data breach in the last three years. 

Having consumer trust is important, but as data breaches accelerate in severity and frequency, digital trust is a delicate commodity. And the cost of losing trust can be sizable. Luckily, the commodity of digital trust can be protected.

It’s time to focus on data privacy

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

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

48% of them have actually stopped shopping with a company because of privacy concerns. So, what can a privacy-motivated organization do to help its privacy posture? 

Differentiate your business with digital trust

According to the above-mentioned McKinsey survey, businesses that establish themselves as digital trust leaders come out ahead of others. They are 13% less likely to experience adverse events, and 1.6 times more likely than the global average to see revenue and EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) rates of over 10%. 

But where does digital trust meet digital practice? When it comes down to it, there’s no universal recipe for digital trust. Instead, digital trust is built from numerous actions businesses take over time. 

For example:

Plan collaboratively 

Privacy programs shouldn’t exist in a silo. You need cross-departmental engagement for processes and practices to be sustainable and align with organizational goals. What’s more, you need buy-in from leadership and stakeholders to ensure that everyone has the resources they need, from training support to appropriate budgets. 

Collaboration is also necessary to establish a robust culture of privacy within your organization, a vital element when creating a sustainable privacy program. 

Recognize that privacy regulations don’t equal digital trust

Knowing the requirements of privacy legislation is important for avoiding compliance issues, but hear us out: building your privacy practices around legislative requirements isn’t necessarily the best way to build digital trust. 

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

PBD is based on a proactive, transparent, user-centered approach that makes privacy the default setting for businesses. As a result, your business defaults to processes and practices that promote digital trust rather than ones that aim 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’re not going to get very far if your employees don’t know what to do with it or why they should care.

Training your entire staff is essential to building trust with consumers. The greater 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, provide regular guidance on:

  • Why privacy awareness is important
  • Relevant regulatory requirements 
  • How to handle personal information 
  • Individual rights processes 
  • Best practices for data management and protection 
  • How to identify and manage risks

A few key notes, though: privacy training should be ongoing. It’s not enough to ask your team to sit through a PowerPoint presentation once a year and call it good. Privacy awareness is an ongoing part of their job, so treat it like one. Send regular policy updates, create a knowledge base of privacy best practices, and make sure they understand the WHY behind privacy as clearly as they understand the HOW. 

Share your good privacy work

Building trust of any kind requires communication. Are you telling your customers what steps you’re taking to protect their personal information? If so, they might not be aware that they can trust you. 

Did your business recently implement a preference center? Make sure everyone knows about it. Did your employees recently undergo new privacy training? Share that information. 

There are lots of opportunities to spread the good word about your good privacy work—don’t overlook them!