Have you ever heard the saying “money isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on?” It’s one of those idioms that’s both true and not true at the same time.

We’ll never turn down a crisp $50 bill, but that bill is objectively worthless. The only reason it isn’t totally useless is that our society has assigned it an economic value greater than the materials it’s made of. Without that assigned value, a $1 bill and a $100 bill would be interchangeable currency.

Printed paper money may be a dominant form of currency today, but throughout human history, there have been all kinds of objects used as currency. Cattle, grain, shells, pelts, cocoa beans, and even rum have all had their turn as the (pun intended) gold standard.

And you might not know this, but so has salt. 

Salt is so ubiquitous in our current food supply that we are regularly looking for ways to cut back our intake, but that hasn’t always been the case. Salt was so valuable that Roman soldiers were paid with it. Because the Latin word for salt is sal, many linguists think the word salary derives from this tradition. Venice and Salzburg became European powerhouses largely based on their salt trade, and France’s gabelle, or salt tax, was a key contributor to the French Revolution.

And at one point in history, salt was so valuable it was literally worth its weight in gold.

Salt’s power as a currency wasn’t because it was a priceless, rare commodity. Salt was valuable because people could do things with it.

Salt bar used as currency

Consumer data is kind of like this. It’s not worth anything on its own, but it’s prized because businesses can do so much with it. With new privacy laws coming online every year, companies have to be extremely careful how they collect, use, and share this valuable resource. To fully realize the benefits of a data collection and processing program, businesses need to invest heavily in building digital trust. 

That makes digital trust the new salt. 

Why digital trust matters

Digital trust refers to how much consumers believe you’ll respect their data and protect it by making sure the right user has the right access to the right data for the right purpose.

In 2012, more than 75% of Americans trusted companies to use their data correctly. But thanks to a seemingly never-ending stream of data breaches and the exposure of unethical data management practices at major international corporations and small businesses alike, that number had dropped to 66% by 2021.

At the same time, 73% of consumers report that they’re more likely to share their personal information with companies they trust, and as many as 42% of consumers are willing to switch companies or providers if a competitor has better privacy practices.

But unless you’re a privacy consultant or software developer, privacy isn’t your actual product. Just as salt contributes to a dish’s texture and flavor balance (no one eats a plate of just salt), a good privacy management program is a value-add that builds trust and makes all of your other offerings taste better.

How to print your own currency

Building privacy-based trust with your customers is kind of like printing your own money—the value you get from it can exceed the resources you put into it.

Need proof?

When you add these benefits to compliance obligations from privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), improving your privacy processes and policies to build trust is a win-win situation. 

Here are the basics of what you need to do to get started:

  1. Map your data. Mapping your data, also known as creating a data inventory, is a great way to fully understand what types of data you’re collecting, what you’re doing with it, who you’re sharing it with, and how you’re storing it. Understanding this information will help you avoid two major trust killers—leaving your data vulnerable and collecting information you don’t need. 
  1. Plan your privacy by default and by design. Combining the two predominant methods for privacy management is the best way to stay compliant with legal obligations, industry best practices, and consumer expectations.

Privacy by design refers to the internal systems, networks, and processes that help your people keep data safe and includes things like the principle of least access, regular employee training, and customer education. Privacy by default involves the technical side of data protection, meaning programs are set to automatically install updates, scan for viruses, compartmentalize data, etc.

  1. Update your privacy policy. Once you understand what your data management program actually looks like, it’s time to overhaul your privacy policy and make sure the language lines up with your practices. Your privacy policy needs to tell customers everything you’re doing with their information and how they can opt out before you collect a single piece of data.
  1. Implement a preference center or trust page. Exchanging currency is a two-way street. You have to give your customers something in return for their money. Yes, they might have shared their personal information with you in exchange for a delightful newsletter or can’t-miss sales, but that’s not enough anymore. You need to offer them control—think of it like a spending cap on a credit card. Your users tell you how much of their trust they’re comfortable with you spending. 

Preference centers also let you manage consumer data more effectively, reducing how much data you’re collecting, and helping you keep it up to date. The result—a more streamlined, better quality data collection program.

Paying the price of privacy doesn’t have to taste bad

The information economy is here to stay, which means privacy and digital trust are the currency you need to invest in to succeed. Even if you’re a little overwhelmed, don’t wait to get started. A few simple steps can make a big difference in the long run.

For more information or to get started today with better data privacy practices, contact us