Digital Trust - More Than Just a Security Goal

We can all agree that we live in the information age. Data has become the currency of our growing digital economy and with every passing year, our environment becomes more heavily defined by it. However, as organizations increasingly accumulate mouth dropping amounts of information the individuals they gather it from become more and more preoccupied with it.

Confidence in brands has dropped to a historic low. According to Frost & Sullivan, 86% of consumers indicate that a high level of data protection is a priority when choosing service providers. Huge data breaches being exposed only accelerate this process and lead consumers to the understanding that their decision to share personal data with brands could have significant implications. That’s when digital trust kicks in.

Digital trust refers to the level of confidence that customers have in an organization's ability to maintain a secure infrastructure which allows sensitive data to be fully protected. This confidence is amorphous and there is no definitive how-to guide on the way to earn it. Its building blocks are somewhat vague but we can all agree with some level of certainty that there are two layers to be addressed in order to urge it - the perception (achieved by strong branding) and the practice (achieved through data leak prevention and implementation of privacy preserving technologies). These two are bound to each other, as you can convince someone to trust you, and it may work for a defined period of time, but once practice isn’t implemented and the nonalignment between them is exposed - trust is lost, maybe forever. Data security is the heart of digital trust. It is the practice and mechanism that safeguards it, and when it fails digital trust decreases.

Communication is the key

Data security may be a matter under IT and security’s responsibility - but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a cross-organization concern. Unfortunately, this is not something we can say about most organizations - according to the Harvard Business Review CFOs are out of touch with cybersecurity in their companies. AdAge has recently shared similar views regarding marketing professionals. This is not surprising due to the fact that IT and security strategies are out of the scope of these departments, and why worry about something you aren’t responsible for? The answer to this question is simple - data security may not be their responsibility, but the outcomes of it definitely are.

Communication is key for all organizations, CIO’s understood a long time ago that one of the core responsibilities within their role is to educate stakeholders ranging from the executive team and board of directors to the business ecosystems. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean they already managed to do that effectively. “Strategy is at the heart of every enterprise, but most CIOs struggle to communicate effectively about that strategy,” said Christie Struckman, Gartner research director. If used wisely, digital trust can be the component to close this communication gap. Digital trust can be measured in business outcomes. While these aspects are more complex than security metrics or compliance, they are critical as they have the potential to bind together security and business functions.

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Digital trust and brand perceptions

In recent surveys, three-fourths of people (75%) declared are likely to start shopping at a company that supports an issue they agree with. Clearly, people see their buying decisions as a way to support the causes they care about and since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, privacy issues can potentially be one of them. New regulations are being created and outdated ones are being polished. Facebook were the ones most beaten out of this situation but they learned that in order to gain back control over their brand perception they need to strategize about the way to communicate the measures they’re taking - and once in a while, a new piece communicating them it's released to the world. But you don’t have to wait for a scandal in order to get things right - cooperating with marketing departments to formalize trustworthiness as one of the core brand qualities can be done in an ongoing manner - the million dollar question is how to market digital trustworthiness to marketers?

Digital trust and growth

Frost and Sullivan partnered with CA to review the state of digital trust. They developed a series of metrics for different facets of consumer digital trust to create The Digital Trust Index. One of their most interesting findings is that while the trend across all consumers is an increase in online spending, those with the highest levels of digital trust increased their net spending significantly more compared to those with the lowest.

Effectively communicating security measures and data privacy policies (preserving privacy through encrypted data) can potentially lead to growth in sales. Messaging is the key. To help build trust, organizations need to be upfront and transparent with their customers. They should clearly explain what they are doing with data - and why, be clear what data is being collected and what it will be used for, and explain what security steps and processes are in place to ensure it remains secure. Not surprisingly, these are concepts which were also based in regulations like GDPR - where organizations are required to grant control to users over their privacy preferences.

To sum up, we can say that digital trust is a solid base to build a business-security-it prosperous partnership. The best way to tighten bonds is to open a communication channel in which mutual pains are shared and addressed jointly.

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