How much is a customer’s privacy worth to a company?

At the Trusted Digital Identity Symposium in Brussels, Steven Ackx spoke about privacy as a new currency. The director of PwC Advisory Services stated that we are already willing to give our contact details in exchange for access to certain websites and information. Would we give our email address to be able to read an interesting article? The audience nodded their heads in unison. But when Steven Ackx asked if we would be willing to scan our iris to gain access to a certain app, opinions were scattered all over the auditorium.

Technology is exploding, everything is getting social and everybody is collecting more and more data. “Winning in the Digital Age is an entire new game”, according to Ackx. Companies have to adapt their way of thinking with the same speed Moore’s Law is changing technology. There is a race going on for new marketing, new ways of reaching your client and… a new way for them to pay.

Privacy as a currency

Contact information has become valuable to any company and nothing is free of charge. Spotify only asks for a small subscription fee, but has to collect your data in order to survive through advertising. “If you are not paying for it, you become the product”, says Forbes. It used to be a contested statement and people saw the Internet being debunked as the dreaded Big Brother, but nowadays this has become a – be it digital – reality.

Client behavior is changing and people are putting more and more trust in handing over their data. Whether they do this because they trust there is little harm in doing so, or because there are no other choices left, we don’t know. But what we do know, is that they consciously contemplate the pros and cons of such a transaction. Some clothing stores are already asking for an ID card instead of a loyalty card: no more wallet-bursting extra plastic to carry around, but no chance to give an alias nor a false address.

In order to survive, you have to adapt

As a client, the benefits should outweigh the creepy feeling that you are being watched. As a company, you have to consider what you are giving in return. You have to establish a bond of trust with your customer, throughout the whole process. From scanning an ID card to giving a password on a website, the customer has to have the feeling the transaction he is making is secure and for your eyes only. Once you obtained the information, you profit from the full potential, without breaching the trust you have built up with your client.

“The dynamics of value creation, competition and advantage are changing: the future of businesses is how they put their data to use”, concludes Ackx. Have you thought about your database? What is it worth to you and what can you give your clients in return? And how can you assure that their data is safe with you?

By Tom Dubois, Worldwide Marketing Director, VASCO

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