Data Protection

Privacy is dead, long live trust

Written by Richard Merrygold, Data Protection Officer, iStorm Solutions.

Long before the GDPR, before Facebook & Cambridge Analytica and before anyone realised just how much of their personal data was being collected and consumed by both private companies and governments across the globe, it has been said that privacy is in fact dead.

That premise is now truer today than it has ever been. It is estimated that we now spend five years and four months of our lives on social media, that’s more time than we spend eating, drinking and socialising combined!*

This time is spent on sites and utilising services that are deemed ‘free’. No subscriptions, no monthly fees, no annual cheques (for those of you who remember paying by cheque). However, nothing in this world is free. The real cost of this interaction with the digital world is personal data; your information, your likes, opinions, beliefs and inner most thoughts, essentially your right to privacy.

As a society, we have chosen to trade our right to privacy, in exchange for access to services that connect us with the world, make our lives easier, more convenient and more efficient. This trade off has created a new commodity, and that commodity is trust. 

Trust is one of the most powerful human feelings, it underpins everything that we do, who we share with, who we love, where we live, eat, sleep, even what car we drive or what route we walk to work. Once our trust has been broken it is incredibly difficult to repair.

It is now widely accepted that our personal data is a currency that we exchange for access to the services that we feel make our lives better. We trust the banks to keep our money safe and invest it wisely and in the same breath we trust the businesses we buy from and the societal services we use to respect our data and our choices.

All companies today rely on trust. There are very few services on offer that don’t require you to collect some form of personal data about your customers. How much information is required varies greatly depending on the service on offer. The more sensitive and personalised the offering, the more in depth the information required will be and the level of trust you will need increases.

Of course it is easy to preach about what businesses should be doing and what consumers expect but more important is how to do it.

The fundamental leading principle of the GDPR tells you all you need to know: Accountability.

Saying that you care or that you “take privacy extremely seriously” is not enough. Words are empty if they are not backed up. Actions speak louder than words, something I have learnt the hard way.

You need to be able to demonstrate to your customers, your regulators and the world at large, that you have taken the appropriate steps to protect your customers’ privacy and thereby maintaining their trust.

The future for data protection for me belongs to those who are open, honest and accountable to their customers. Respect your customers’ wishes, respect the data they have provided you with, be open, honest, and transparent about how you use their data and why, and in turn they will reward you with their trust and a long and fruitful relationship.

Privacy is dead. Long live trust.

*Source: Social Media Today