Data protection and privacy are red-hot topics right now, as they should be. We are facing a watershed moment that could determine government and organizational policy for years to come. Weighing personal privacy against national security, for instance, is not as cut-and-dry as it may first appear. In our data-centric world, organizations are hungry for insights about their customers and clients, but how can organizations balance trust with the need for data privacy?

I recently participated in a podcast hosted by Connected Futures, along with Michael Kaiser, executive director at the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), to discuss these questions. The moderator, editor-in-chief Stefanie McCann, noted that consumers are willing to divulge a certain amount of their personal information in return for services. However, there is a “trust cliff” – a steep drop-off in willingness to share data beyond the basics. How can organizations avoid falling off this trust cliff? How can they respect customers’ and prospects’ privacy while getting the data they need to drive business intelligence for issues like improved customer service and new revenue streams?

Here’s my perspective: the balance between data sharing and privacy is highly contextual. It comes down to our expectation of privacy. You aren’t going to share with your therapist or lawyer the same things that you share on social media, for instance. There are notions of balance between privacy and security, safety and data integrity, ownership and fiduciary responsibility. These notions aren’t fixed; they change over time. It’s similar to driving a car; the rules change based on road conditions.

Data privacy isn’t just about data that an organization is going to use for business insights. Sometimes it’s about data that will never be used again, as for a one-time financial transaction, but if that data gets lost or stolen, the customer’s privacy has been violated. In this respect, data privacy is a lifecycle issue. Think of it this way: if you hand someone a dollar bill, the money doesn’t diminish in value just because you’ve given it to another person. It still has value, and it still needs to be protected.

This topic will continue to be debated in the public arena, and that’s a good thing; we need a multiplicity of voices and perspectives to help create a path forward in this digital frontier. I hope you’ll listen to the podcast, and I hope you’ll share your perspective in the comments section below.


Michelle Dennedy

No Longer with Cisco