Our examination of the challenges of building digital trust continues with a look at the important questions to ask about five more important digital trust issues, as explored in a recent article from PwC.
Just a few decades ago, the Internet was imagined as a platform where people could freely exchange information in an open, egalitarian manner. But little remains of that vision today as governments and corporations around the world struggle with the question of how to govern the Internet without breaking up its power and promise.
In the United States, for example, the “net neutrality” debate has sparked tensions between Internet service providers that see no problem with creating a superfast Internet for those business users who can afford to pay premium prices, and consumer rights advocates who firmly believe in the idea of a single, equal Internet for all users. Internationally, a number of countries have put laws in place that restrict, to a greater or lesser degree, their citizens’ access to the Internet. But as more and more entities set up their own structures, barriers, and safeguards around Internet access, how can the regulatory balance address this growing fragmentation? And how should the gatekeepers of digital information, the ones who govern our web access, themselves be governed?
Cyber security and citizen privacy
As more and more core societal functions move online, and as more and more of our physical life becomes connected to the Internet, there’s little doubt that cyber security is a paramount digital trust issue. Cyber security risks can hit at both the micro level, such as a hacker taking control of a connected car or home, and the macro level, such as the deployment of a cyber weapon that can target crucial energy infrastructure or mass transportation systems.
In response to these risks, governments and companies alike are understandably seeking to access, monitor, and control as much personal data as possible. But is there a limit to what and how much data can be accessed? What happens to sensitive personal data in the event of a leak or loss? What steps do governments and companies need to take to balance their demands for data control with their need to regain the trust of an increasingly wary and skeptical public?
Given the extent to which we rely on digital technology to perform day-to-day tasks without even thinking about it—checking in for flights, paying bills online, arranging transportation—disruptions and glitches are increasingly viewed as unacceptable occurrences. “Keeping the lights on,” as digital resilience is often called, is rapidly becoming a top business priority, and businesses that are unable to do so risk losing the confidence of their customers.
But when disruptions do occur, crisis response, the second component of digital resilience, is equally important. How can companies ensure they are reacting optimally to rapidly unfolding events? How can they respond to a crisis and manage the recovery process as quickly and effectively as possible? Those entities that can reassure their customers and stakeholders by minimizing the impact of unexpected IT outages and glitches will be best placed to build trust and resilience in a constantly changing world.
Our concept of what it means to own something has been dramatically altered by digitization. The huge value shift from physical to virtual has made the question of property rights and value creation a rather fuzzy issue, and the significant grey areas that have emerged have increased the scope for disputes and the erosion of trust.
When works are distributed digitally, for example, could customer rights be reduced or revoked over time? Who actually owns personal data, the companies that collected it or the consumers the data pertains to? And what about cloud storage: how should the ability of cloud service providers to release information to third parties be governed? Interestingly, as corporate assets become increasingly digitized, these questions of ownership and value creation are particularly relevant to global tax strategies.
Automation in the workplace has been one of the major drivers of change, both positive and negative, in the fourth industrial revolution. It has improved productivity, product quality, workplace safety, and job creation in certain areas, but it has also been a key force in decimating jobs in traditional sectors, like manufacturing and logistics, and it certainly won’t stop there. Businesses and governments alike must therefore figure out how to win back the trust of those people that feel marginalized and on the wrong side of this new digital divide.
Does the answer lie in providing funded schooling so that workers’ skills can be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the economy brought on by technological advances? Perhaps, but the major difference between this revolution and those that preceded it is that the rate at which jobs will be displaced will be much faster than the pace at which humans can reskill. We must look, therefore, at what else history can teach us about shaping new laws and charters to mitigate the social chaos wrought by innovation, no matter how beneficial it may be in other ways.