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In today’s digital world, handing over your personal data feels like a necessary evil. It’s nearly impossible to make a dinner reservation, create a new account, send flowers, or even pay a bill without having to enter a phone number, sign up for a newsletter or accept a website’s cookies.
As our daily lives become more virtual, the demand to offer personal information in exchange for everyday necessities or conveniences becomes unavoidable. This has users shouting from the rooftops about the importance of privacy and data protection. But users need help.
To do this, we must think of privacy as the empty state, the default. It’s not something to be gained, it’s something to be lost. Think of it this way: When you meet a new friend, you gradually volunteer information about yourself as you build a relationship with that person. Based on varying degrees of familiarity and trust, over time you choose what to share about yourself, peeling apart the onion of your own identity one conversation or fun fact at a time.
Peeling away layers of digital identity
Our digital privacy is much the same. Every action, transaction, search, and bookmark peels away the layers of our digital identity, one tap at a time. What is different, though, is that decision piece — we’re not always in control of who or what we share this information with. Right now we’re largely at the mercy of the applications we choose to interact with.
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Even when users have the option to protect their privacy, they oftentimes still put themselves at risk. The Privacy Paradox — a norm among users — is defined as the dichotomy between a person’s intentions to protect their online privacy in contrast with how they actually behave online, ultimately compromising their privacy. How ironically consistent with our human desire to have the cake and eat it too. But if users aren’t looking out for their own digital privacy, who will? The very companies that depend on our data. And now more than ever, there’s incentive for them to step up.
The evidence is already there: Trust sells. Organizations that prioritize privacy and trust get rewarded by users. That’s why 90% of businesses say they consider privacy a business imperative, with 71% identifying loyalty and trust specifically as their top priority. So, how can companies cash in by building trust with users online today?
Transparency in data usage
Users want transparency on how their information is being used. It’s that simple. When organizations take the extra step to include privacy statements or a promise that they will not share information with third parties, it eases the user’s mind. Companies can also address mandatory data regulations on their websites to be outspoken about their compliance with such laws. It’s this simple reinforcement that might result in the user feeling more comfortable spending time on a website, and in turn, becoming a paying member of the community.
Consent to use data
In real life — away from the internet — a company would never follow you around, taking notes on everything you do without your permission. So why are they doing it to users online? At a base level, users want to be respected, and the easiest way to do that is to ask for consent.
Organizations need to establish best practices and best-in-class solutions for identity management and data protection. Whether it’s the use of third-party tools like two-step verification for access management, data encryption, or an out-of-the-box end-to-end encryption service, companies must employ modern architecture that’s designed to protect data throughout all stages of the data lifecycle.
The internet is here to stay, and the demand for intimate information is only going to increase as we move deeper into a digital world. We know that users will not act in their best interest when it comes to privacy, but still, the demand for privacy is there. That’s why companies who address consumer pressure can prioritize privacy as a competitive advantage, allowing them to bring in users and keep them around for good.
Vuk Janosevic is the co-founder and CEO of Blindnet.
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