Privacy is dead, long live trust…. by EM360 Board Advisor Richard Merrygold

The Director of Group Data Protection at Homeserve shares his views on the evolution of privacy and trust.

Richard Merrygold is the Director of Group Data Protection at Homeserve. Follow him on Twitter and YouTube

Privacy is dead, long live trust….

It was nearly 4 years ago that I gave my first presentation to my new team. The premise, that privacy was dead.

This was before the GDPR was a buzzword, before Facebook & Cambridge Analytica were front page news and long before anyone had started to take notice of just how much of their personal data is consumed and shared by some of the worlds biggest tech companies.

That premise however, is truer today than it has ever been. It is estimated that we now spend 5 years and 4 months of our lives on social media, that’s more time than we spend eating, drinking and socialising combined!*

The cost of this interaction with the digital world? Your personal data, your information, your likes, opinions, beliefs and inner most thoughts, your privacy.

The fact is, that 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. In doing this, we created a new commodity, one that arguably is even more valuable than the data that we provide and the privacy we gave up as a result 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 live, where eat, even what car we drive or what route we walk to work. As soon as that trust is broken, we lose all confidence in that person, that situation, that notion and the same is true for how we behave online.

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 and in much the same way that we trust the banks to keep our money safe and invest it wisely, we trust societal services and ecommerce to do the same and when they don’t and that trust is broken, it is incredibly hard to rebuild. A survey carried out by Speechly Bercham in Sept 2014 (when I delivered that first presentation) found that 58% of people cite ‘trust’ as being the most important factor when deciding whether or not to share their personal information.

Here at HomeServe, we rely heavily on the trust of our customers. Our customers trust us to provide them with the service they need, when they need it. They trust us to enter their homes, their place of solitude and sanctuary. They give up their right to privacy because they trust us to treat their homes and their personal situations with respect. They trust us with the information we need to support them and their family members and we’re very proud that they do because without their trust, we wouldn’t be to help.

This is true for all companies today, there are very few services that you can offer that don’t require you to collect some form of personal data about your customers. How much information you need will vary greatly depending on what service you are offering and the more detailed and in depth the information, the greater level of trust you will need with your customers.

If you want to keep your customers and you want to have a long and fruitful relationship then you need to gain and keep their trust. In exchange for that, your customers will give up their right to privacy so that they can benefit from the services you offer. Just remember, if you breach that trust, you can be certain that you will lose more than just customers, a lesson that Facebook is now learning the hard way.

Privacy is dead. Long live trust.

*Source: Social Media Today