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The need for data privacy is at an unprecedented high. With recent cases like Google, who were fined £44m for breaching data protection laws, and Facebook, who agreed to a £4bn settlement following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other data infringements, consumers are more wary than ever of how and when their personal information is being used.

Following these and other high-profile cases, big tech have responded by flying the privacy flag for their customers, with Apple, Google and Microsoft, for example, making statements such as ‘privacy is a fundamental human right’, ‘privacy shouldn’t be a luxury good’ or ‘your privacy is our priority’.

But promises aside, what is occurring in the arena of privacy are not just the legal ramifications of misusing personal data. While consumers are increasingly aware of their rights to data privacy thanks to GDPR and highly-publicised data infringements, stats are showing that 9 in 10 consumers say businesses that protect their data will win their custom.

What this means is that data privacy for businesses is no longer just a compliance issue. It is becoming a brand differentiator that is as central to the board-level conversation as the latest product or service.

If businesses want to maintain consumer trust, they will need to put privacy at the heart of their products and stand out by proving a commitment to safe, personalised service.

Brand Differentiator

In a recent survey by SmarterHQ, Amazon came out on top at 48.3% as the most trusted retailer when it comes to handling personal data. Next in line were banks at 29.8%, and Apple and Google, at 26.6% and 26.2%, respectively.

Amazon’s high rating is attributed to its great emphasis on personalised customer service. Research is showing that consumers are willing to hand over their personal data if they think it will give them a better customer experience.

In the wake of these kinds of statistics, companies are taking steps to win the trust of their customers by stating a commitment to privacy and integrating security features into their products.

Visibly leading the pack in this regard is Apple, whose infamous billboard ad ‘what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone’, alludes to their message that they don’t sell targeted ads and therefore don’t collect and distribute huge amounts of data.

More to the point is how Apple is demonstrating their loyalty to privacy by integrating it into their products.

At their keynote in March 2019, CEO Tim Cook introduced a host of new Apple products but with one new added descriptor: each was explained in relation to its security features. As he laid out the latest credit card, news service and premium TV channel service, information about their inherent data privacy was described with statements like: “they’re designed to keep your personal information private and secure”.

A few months later, Apple introduced new sign-in features on the iPhone which uses facial recognition and replaces the ‘sign in with Google’ function, preventing the usual tracking of a user’s information. Other features include the ability to hide a user’s email address if requested by an app, or to create a unique anonymous email that forwards to one’s real address.

Amazon, who have been largely silent on the privacy discussion, have since followed suit with improvements to their smart devices, giving users more control. On Alexa, consumers can now automatically delete recorded messages every 3 months, and on the Echo Show 5, “privacy zones” can be set so that parts of the camera’s view will be impossible to record or see live.

Microsoft is also declaring its commitment to privacy by calling for tighter legislationaround data management and facial recognition. They also recently made changes to commercial cloud contracts to provide more transparency over data processing in the Microsoft cloud.

Whatever steps are being implemented by big tech, what is evident is that privacy has become a way for brands to compete and stand out. There is a war to win consumer trust and what it comes down to are the promises of how personal data is being used.


To sum up, data privacy is no longer a side issue; it is a brand differentiator and should be a fundamental part of board-level decision-making when it comes to the development of new products and services.

As evidenced by companies like Apple who are visibly integrating security features into their products, and Amazon, who are winning trust due to their personalised service, the way brands present their commitment to data privacy is vital for maintaining customer loyalty.

With this in mind, businesses would do well to think about what the value exchange is with their customers and whether their promise to uphold data security is actually being delivered. It is one thing to fly the flag of privacy and make a commitment to protecting personal information, and another to successfully operationalise this promise across the entire organisation.

As we discussed in this blog entry, one of the greatest challenges business face is creating coherence between their ‘why’ and their ‘how’. In terms of data privacy, this requires a clear understanding of the company’s stance from end-to-end and then being able to align that with their products and the promise to the customer.


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