Can you ever be fully private and fully protected?

As the digital world permeates more areas of consumers’ lives, the degree to which people trust digital devices, services and organisations becomes increasingly important. This has also forced privacy to become a new priority and generated a growing conversation across industries.

On the regulatory side, the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe last year drove the issue to the top of the agenda and resulted in similar legislation around the world, such as the Consumer Privacy Protection Act in California.

From a business perspective, several high-profile chief executives have recently commented about importance of privacy. I thought Google chief executive Sundar Pichai put it very well when he noted, “Privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world.”

Given all the technology and resources that industry leaders have access to, it’s interesting to see how something as simple as privacy can raise so many comments, conversations and concerns.

Privacy issues not black and white

When Money20/20 started in 2012, there was a broad conversation about the impact mobile technology would have across industries. It was changing how people interacted with longstanding companies and institutions, as well as new brands that were arising to implement this technology in a completely new way.

Similar to the momentum and shift that took place around mobile technology, there are now rising broad conversations about privacy that include some of the most powerful and influential people in the economy.

While the wording on public statements, similar to Sundar’s, share a common theme and sound the same, we can speculate that the closed-door conversations on privacy will vary dramatically.

How a company defines privacy, their boundaries and who has the final say are fundamental questions that drive different outcomes. These often vary even within the same organisation as each company has vastly different business models, cultures and histories, each of which comes into play in these conversations.

In reviewing public statements and conversations on privacy, you can get a false sense that the debate is black and white, but in reality we are in the early stages of this long public discourse. Similar to the early days of mobile, conventional wisdom will be flipped and challenge long-held beliefs. There will be many experiments from players entering and exiting the space before we find the few, true long-term winners.

Adopting a privacy-first approach

During the early days of mobile, it was important to have a strategy for this emerging platform, which later evolved to mobile first. What we can take from this is the importance of thinking about how you can become privacy first when building your privacy strategy, a process to retrofit privacy on to existing infrastructure.

A privacy-first approach places importance on the experiences we can create, placing privacy as a core tenet. As a rough litmus test, you can compare the results of this thinking with the consumer privacy expectations of each different generation, all of which will have dramatically different views on privacy. This type of thinking can remove the constraints and broaden your strategies, so your company may be one of the few long-term winners.

As we each build our strategies, it can lead us to ask whether creating full protection for digital privacy is even an option? At Money20/20 we’ll be diving into the toughest privacy and security questions, and helping provide actionable insights and takeaways to help you build your privacy strategy, no matter what phase your business is in.