Trust will become a differentiator in the digital economy

With the rise of big data and AI, and its predicted ability to make everyone’s lives easier, the trust will become a major factor in whether consumers will continue to freely give consent to being part of this new digital economy.

Data is everywhere.

Credit cards, healthcare records, social media, shopping habits, travel records and so on.   From our fondness for sushi to the number of times we fill up our car, that data is useful for someone somewhere to refine and develop their products and services around our preferences or traits.

As part of any society, we trust companies every day not only with the data they collectively generate from our activity but also with our personally identifiable information (PII) that is individual to us.  Most of us implicitly trust that they are using this data responsibly and for our benefit – we have become a generation of digital consumers that are far more prepared than previous ones to exchange our information in order to take advantage of what you can get back.

However, the sad fact is that this trust is often misplaced.

No matter how up to date or sophisticated a company’s security systems are, they inevitably degrade over time due to the complexity of maintaining such secure environments.  You only have to open the papers to read of the latest data breach, usually affecting millions – if not tens of millions – of user records.

Fortunately, there is technology like we are developing here at Gospel – utilising blockchain technology.

The fact is that blockchains, by their very nature, can provide an immutable (and trustable) record of data transaction histories. Furthermore, their use of sophisticated public key encryption means that they are extremely good at blocking and preventing unauthorised access to the data.  Products are now available using private, permissioned ledgers that add sophisticated granular access control far beyond what’s currently available on public chains.  What’s more, as chains grow over time they become even harder to tamper with making them increasingly secure, unlike those conventional data security systems.

With these new data platforms, inherent security is happening at the actual data level – trust is effectively built into the database via the technology – saving time and money to access, share and use.

Governments around the world have cottoned on to the lack of control around personal data, and are implementing measures to try and enforce change through hefty fines on companies that don’t do enough to protect and track their PII (EU General Data Protection Regulations being one such example), but I believe the revolution will be consumer-driven.  The best implementer of change comes from customer demand, and at some point, the scales will tip.

Already we are starting to see a backlash against how and what companies use people’s data for, and the almost daily reporting of data breaches or losses will begin to have its toll. Yes, customers accept that better understanding of data means better, more streamlined, more personable services – but not at any cost.

Consumers will be less likely to consent to their data being used to improve the services they use unless they can be sure it will be used responsibly.  Trust will become an attribute that companies can use to differentiate from their competitors in this new digital economy.

I believe that technology such as those we are developing here at Gospel will hold the answers to achieving that trust.


Ian Smith is Gospel’s CEO

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