Privacy and trust: Consumers and business at odds

Last month, global IT giant Cisco released its 6th annual Privacy Benchmark Study.  The report incorporated responses from over 3,100 organisations in 26 countries.

Cisco found that companies in every size category had maintained or increased their privacy spending despite global economic challenges, and that those investments are paying off. This year, more companies (36% vs 32% last year) are enjoying returns of at least 2x on their privacy investments. More businesses (74% vs 69% last year) also said their privacy strategies had made their companies more valuable to customers.

However, the report also revealed a series of disconnects between the priorities of businesses and the expectations of their customers.

Trust is key. But how do you build it?

Trust is a cornerstone of any successful brand. It often defines the customer relationship – just over three quarters of consumers told Cisco they won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you with their personal data. 

How do you build and maintain that level of trust? That’s where business and consumer views on data privacy diverge.

Businesses report their top trust-building priority is compliance (30%), followed closely by transparency (26%).

Consumers, on the other hand, ranked transparency highest ( 39%), not selling personal data a distant second (21%), and compliance third (20%).

In other words, mere compliance with data privacy laws doesn’t impress many of your customers. They treat not breaking the law as a given, and they expect a lot more than that. 

It’s transparency they crave. But not the box-ticking, performative kind of transparency we see in most privacy notices full of recycled, vague, overly general, and evasive language. No, they want to truly understand what you are doing with their personal data. Only then can they decide if it’s safe to buy from you. 

Privacy notices vs processing activities

Privacy is now a key part of the customer experience. If your customer can’t understand what you’re doing with their personal data, you risk squandering their trust, ruining their experience and your brand in the process.

But even if you write a completely transparent privacy notice, your customer still might struggle to understand what you’re doing with their data. If that happens, ask yourself:

  1. Is the problem with the way the privacy notice is written?
  2. Or is the problem with how we’re using their personal data?


Privacy notices, no matter how well you write them, can only do so much. If you’re having trouble explaining to customers what you’re doing with their data, maybe the problem is with your business processes (such as AI-driven automated decisions, which we’ll cover in our next article). The problem might even go right to the core of your business model.

Building trust means tackling these deeper-rooted privacy issues. Adopting a Privacy by Design approach throughout your organisation is an effective and robust way to do it, with an attractive payoff for your customer experience and brand.