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PHOTO: Damir Kotorić

The near-constant news of privacy scandals is a stark reminder of the importance of data protection and responsibility in the digital age. Trust is critical for organizations to both leverage the benefits of data analytics while maintaining positive relationships with those who entrust them with that information. 

Yet developing and maintaining that trust is easier said than done. A recent IBM study found only 20 percent of US consumers “completely trust” organizations to maintain the privacy of their data.

Related Article: Marketers, Data Collection and the E-Word: Ethics

What Does Ethical and Transparent Data Use Look Like?

Recent scandals, where not only was personal information lost, but also used in an unexpected way, erode consumer trust. People are asking businesses about the type of information they collect, how they use and store it, and with whom it is shared. To regain the trust of those individuals, organizations must guarantee they properly collect, use, disclose and safeguard all of this information.

Trust consists of two factors: its subjective and objective nature. The subjective nature of trust includes emotions, gelling of parties and interpersonal aspects. By contrast, the objective nature of trust pertains to how the individual will evaluate the situation and the relationship. While the subjective nature is not necessarily controllable by organizations — people can have a bad day — it is vital to clearly define how you will address the objective nature of trust by understanding the reservations and doubts, which break down as: 

  • Risk: The individual identifies a gap between the known and unknown possibilities of dealing with the organization and the risk something bad or unexpected will happen.
  • Reliance: The individual perceives the organization will make determinations about what will happen and the need to rely on the organization for what will happen.
  • Results: The individual realizes the consequence of what will happen in the end is unclear and that there is uncertainty in what result will occur in the end.

By understanding how individuals perceive these factors, the organization can develop the actions they'll take to address them, including:

  • Transparency: Be clear and understandable. It is an opportunity to make the unknown known and describe how, what and when you will do what you do in order to close the gap and erase the risk.
  • Accountability: Take responsibility up front. Make clear your organization is responsible and will do what it says it will do.
  • Governance: Explain the process. Describe, in detail, how the organization will deliver the final end result.

Related Article: 5 Things Brands Can Do to Win Back Customer Trust

The Balance Between Effective Data Analytics Use and Strong Consumer Relations

Organizations must take inventory of the information they collect, use and disclose to understand the value it provides to their business. At the same time, it must consider what this information's value is to the individual in question and how the collection, use and disclosure of that information can impact the individual. Brands need to ensure people know and, most importantly, understand, what is being collected, how is it being used, and what is shared and with whom. One approach is to create fair information principles that address:

  • Notice: Provide transparency to individuals up front about the collection, use and disclosure of information.
  • Access: Establish who can collect, use and receive the information and why.
  • Consent: Obtain permission from the individual for the collection, use and disclosure of their information.
  • Limitation: Only collect, use and disclose the information related to its purpose.
  • Purpose: Define the purpose for which information is collected, used and disclosed.
  • Quality: Institute integrity and quality controls on the processes for the collection, use and disclosure of information.

Related Article: Will There Still Be Marketing After GDPR?

It's a Matter of Trust 

Stories about bad information practices and a general lack of ethics concerning personal information have created a fear in individuals that will, in some cases, prevent them from sharing information. This can impact an organization's business decision-making processes. For some organizations, the complexity of the data environment is so huge that even if they are not actively trying to take advantage of the data — for better or worse — they still cannot understand the full impact of the breadth of the information they have access to.

To retain people's trust, organizations need to understand how to objectively engender that trust when it comes to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. This will help the organization solve by ensuring access to the information they need and will benefit not only the organization, but the individual as well.