A study by Cisco revealed just how important privacy is to the continuing growth of economies, including the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Privacy has evolved to be much more than just a compliance issue, but rather a fundamental human right and a mission-critical C-suite priority – heralding a change in digital transformation priorities for businesses.
Despite this, privacy remains an area of contention, only expected to worsen amidst digitalisation efforts.
Not since the introduction of GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulation have we seen a resurgence in discussion around the protection of personal privacy in light of the growing calls against indiscriminate use and possible abuse of customer data.
How do you deliver or tailor a solution to a customer without violating the customer’s right to his or her privacy? At the same time, how do you create a marketing program that adheres to privacy regulations but is sufficiently economical for the business to create a sustained campaign?
David Black, founder and CEO of Blackbox Research, reminds us that privacy is a universal tenet for people that have been around for a long time. However, in historical terms, privacy protection is still relatively new.
He noted that privacy protection in Asia follows that of the more mature markets elsewhere. However, how regulation is being adopted and practiced comes down to the different markets. For Black, this localisation of privacy protection is important and necessary.
“Regulators cannot simply follow what is being done in other markets,” he remarked.
Finding the balance between privacy, innovation and economics
Black concurred that finding the balance is the question of the day.
He acknowledged that, like in other parts of the world, consumers understand what they are giving up for that free service.
He opined that in the marketplace of the present, privacy is becoming a competitive strength. “I think what you're going to see in terms of innovation moving forward, is that many businesses will make a decision to sort of say: privacy could be a selling point for us. And we'll look at it in different ways. And we'll make different promises to consumers,” he opined.
Current research/thinking on privacy
Pulling insights from the Blackbox global study, Black said people understand how their privacy is being used by companies.
In mature markets, privacy is a much bigger concern. In developing markets, people are more willing to trade their privacy because it will give them access.
“Privacy is sometimes a secondary concern because their economic welfare, the taking care of their families, making extra income is more important,” he added.
COVID-19 as accelerant
Black is of the opinion that COVID-19 was an enormous accelerant for everything online. It accelerated the inclusion of people into the digital fold.
“People who barely texted are now on Zoom calls every day,” he added.
From a corporate perspective, Black believed some companies are "kind of happy to go along" with what he called the "minimal compliance route - “we do what we have to do”.
Engagements that are mindful of privacy
How do you engage customers while being mindful of their expectations around privacy?
“Don’t look backwards. Look forward. The world is not static. Acknowledge that privacy is an active discussion,” suggested Black.
He suggested to approach customers understanding that they have been exposed to digital-led products and services and assume they have been given choices with respect to privacy.
He used the analogy of awareness around climate or sustainability. “Businesses have had to respond to these, not just at the board level or through compliance with market standards. When it comes to privacy rights and protection, businesses are having to respond and react to customers now in a big way,” he added.
He also pointed out that observance around privacy protection is imperative. “Businesses need to work closely with their local regulators and put across their knowledge and understanding of what their customers in that market are really looking for, and what's different about that,” he commented.
Dialogue with regulators
When engaging with regulators, it is important to come to the table armed with knowledge about the customers – what is acceptable practice in the local marketplace.
“We're not going to get innovation in this part of the world, until businesses start to stand on their own two feet and, and really have a dialogue and a conversation which is based on their reality – not the reality somewhere else in the world,” he concluded.
Click on the PodChats player to listen in detail to Black’s views on how privacy can be observed while supporting the growth impetus
- Please describe privacy in the context of information security, data protection and the private sphere. How are these connected (if at all)?
- Are businesses and regulators in Asia aligned in the interpretation of the boundaries of customer privacy? Are there any differences in Asia as it relates to the protection of customer privacy?
- What are the challenges that businesses must overcome to achieve a balance between privacy and innovation?
- What stood out in the recent Blackbox research?
- Observers say that COVID-19 accelerated (is accelerating) digital-led innovation. How should enterprises push the boundaries of customer engagement and innovation without overstepping evolving regulations that protect privacy?
- What is your advice to businesses pursuing the need to engage while observing privacy expectations?