Brands: Why trust goes hand in hand with privacy

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Kristina: According to a recent Akamai report consumers want more control over their personal data – what is it that consumers want when it comes to their personal data?

Sven Dummer, Global Product Marketing Manager, Akamai: I think this comes down to three things: Consumers want to be able to choose what data they share, and with whom. They don’t want unsolicited data collection behind their back, and they don’t want to be “blackmailed” into giving up personal data in order to gain access to services or information. Secondly, consumers want transparency and control, which means easy ways to find out what data a company has on them and the ability to change or erase that data. And third, consumers want brands to keep their data private and protected from abuse, theft, and similar threats.

Kristina: How are brands failing consumers, at this point, when it comes to data?

Sven: Many companies are collecting personal data and tracking consumers online without their knowledge. These companies not only ignore their customers’ desire for privacy, but they also expose them to risks like identity theft. The same is true for companies that don’t protect their customers’ data sufficiently against bad actors who aim to steal and monetize that data. We’ve seen far too many data breaches and data abuse scandals, and sadly, many are the result of sloppy security practices and could have easily been avoided. As a result, consumers have become cautious in who they trust.

Companies need to be transparent about how they handle data at every step of the way. Internally, many companies will need to change their policies, best practices, and potentially even their code of ethics to reflect what you can and cannot do with customer data. A lot of things you could do with data might be very tempting for marketers, but might be unethical, dangerous or repelling for the consumer, or even illegal under one of the newer data protection regulations.

Kristina: What are the benefits to brands in working with their customers on data privacy issues?

Sven: Customers who trust a brand are not only more loyal, but trust has become a prerequisite for customers to engage in business with a company. Seventy percent of consumers avoid purchasing from companies that they believe do not protect their personal information, according to a study by Deloitte. And new regulations around the globe require businesses to collect consent from consumers in order to process personal data. And consent requires trust. Without trust, there is no consent. Without consent, there is no data. And no data means hopelessly ineffective sales and marketing campaigns.

Kristina: How can brands communicate better with their customers about how and why their data could be used?

Sven: Businesses need to communicate to customers how and why their data is being used along all phases of the customer journey. It starts with account signup and login, where people need to be informed and offered links to detailed information. But it doesn’t stop there. Brands should offer explanations of their data policies that are clear and easy to understand – don’t leave your customers alone with the legalese of the actual policy documents. Look at the “Your data” video of British television network Channel 4 as an excellent example.

Kristina: What can businesses and brands begin doing now to earn consumer trust?

Sven: When customers create an account on a website, tell them what data you need and why, don’t collect more data than necessary, make it easy to view and edit that data later, allow people to delete their accounts if they so desire, and ensure the highest level of security. These are basically all things that most of the new data protection regulations around the globe require, such as GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California; so it’s what businesses need to do anyway in order to achieve compliance with the law. Brands should not approach this as just a mandatory exercise to reach regulatory compliance, though – but look at consumer trust as part of a mutually beneficial business relationship, in which personalized marketing and targeting is no longer perceived as unwanted, intrusive and uncontrollable by their buyers.



Kristina Knight is a freelance writer based in Ohio, United States. She began her career in radio and television broadcasting, focusing her energies on health and business reporting. After six years in the industry, Kristina branched out on her own. Since 2001, her articles have appeared in Family Delegate, Credit Union Business, and with Threshold Media.