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Data privacy as a value proposition: A proactive approach to increasing trust with privacy and data protection

23 July 2020 | Enrique Pena

Today’s rapid increase in the adoption of digital services and the data they generate is creating an opportunity for enterprises to improve their consumer engagement and brand loyalty, but it comes with the responsibility to keep consumer data safe. People have become careful about sharing data, and as regulators step up privacy requirements, smart organizations and commercial enterprises are learning that data protection and privacy can create business advantages.

When used correctly, the collected data can be immensely valuable to companies in increasing their understanding of user behaviours, experience, pain points and the need to personalize and improve services and their delivery. Analysis of usage data can generate actionable insights that when applied, can successfully yield new features, products and services. And because many internet services are free to use, businesses are funding their operations by collecting user data and monetizing it by targeting users with personalized advertising and marketing.

Collected user data is vital, and it is transforming business, there is no doubt about that. But with digital services, consumers are becoming increasingly careful about which data they want to share and with whom. People are more likely to share only the personal data that is necessary to interact with an organization’s digital services but not more. There is a growing lack of trust due to the recent history of high-profile consumer-data breaches.

Aiming for compliance? Don’t stop there!

The approach that organizations take to increase a customer’s trust in their brands is to simply tick the compliance boxes and move on to other priorities. Compliance is not enough anymore. Compliance must be combined with educating customers on how data privacy plays a central role in an organization’s products and services and how it affects its customers directly.

Today, leading and responsible businesses that manage the data they collect, apply ‘privacy by design’ and ‘privacy engineering’ practices to the digital services they develop. The goal of ‘privacy by design’ is to take privacy requirements into account throughout a digital service’s development process, from conception through to design, implementation and operation. Privacy by design is the practice of considering privacy safeguarding measures at the time of the design of the system. Privacy engineering, on the other hand, is the means to sustain and keep data privacy constant and resilient. It involves taking privacy into account during the entire life cycle of the service, including all of its involved systems, so that privacy remains an intrinsic part of their function. By following these principles, service and digital experience designers can build in privacy compliance during the design phase for systems rather than addressing it only at later stages when it is too late.

Associating your brand with being a responsible business

The general characteristics of privacy are, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia, the right to be left alone, that is, free from being observed or disturbed, and the ability to control the information released about oneself. Information privacy pertains to what is known as personally identifiable information. Personally, identifiable information is information that can be used to distinguish or trace an identity, like your full name, address, social security number, passport, driver’s license or credit card information, phone numbers, and photos. Also, any data linkable to your date or place of birth, race, religion, geo-location, employment, medical, education, financial information, even your weight and activities.

Protecting this amount of people’s sensitive information requires a proactive, continuous privacy-first approach to data protection. To increase customer trust, responsible businesses and government entities need to build a holistic and adaptive privacy program and be proactive instead of just responding to each privacy challenge. And there is little time left to catch up as more than 60 jurisdictions globally have enacted or proposed modern privacy and data protection laws.

Advances privacy as product hygiene

Gartner Research (2019) says privacy is becoming a reason for consumers to purchase a product in the same way that ‘organic’, ‘free trade’ and ‘cruelty-free’ labels have driven product sales in the past decade. Products in those categories demanded a premium and were only on offer by speciality outlets. Not anymore. Today, even large multinationals have adopted these conviction-based motivators across their core products and their supply chain. Privacy-first products are already following this trend, and like ‘organic’ products, privacy-first services will be considered essential offerings for buyers considering which brand to choose. This insight alone should be a wake-up call to businesses planning to maintain their brand as relevant and profitable.

Simply put, your customers are more inclined than ever to cross the road over to the competition and pay a premium if that is where they believe their personal data will be best protected. As discussed previously in our Digital14 Blog Network, awareness has eroded trust and driven an increase in perceived privacy invasion by globally operating organizations. The way a company handles data privacy will guide purchase choices as they are made based on who best differentiates by being transparent and intelligible. Trust builds up when digital service providers educate users on how to safely use their online platforms and other apps that store their personal data.

Highlight your organization’s privacy value proposition

To make things even more challenging, assuming your organization has privacy by design and privacy engineering in place, there is one more crucial thing to focus on: Privacy User Experience (UX). I will go into more detail about this in a future blog, but it is all about how do you eventually deliver privacy to your users and make it a business advantage. To collect valuable user data, your brand needs to highlight the value proposition: users are willing to share their data or consent to cookies when they trust and value the relationship with your brand and understand the benefit they are receiving in return. Imagine your customer asking “what do I get out of this” when confronted with a request for personal data. If you are not clear in your language or privacy experience, expect them to opt-out (or to not agree to opt-in at all).

Privacy UX takes the best practices from the field of UX and human-centred design and applies them to data collection and privacy interactions with your users. Using awareness generation and education of your privacy policies as a competitive business advantage leads to increased trust-based customer retention and the acquisition of new customers.

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

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