The future depends on trust, confidence and proof
August 16 2019
by Aaron Sherrill, Scott Crawford
Technology impacts just about every aspect of our lives. Technology has increased our lifespans, improved our well-being, given us more freedom, provided unparalleled insight and transformed communication. It is a key driver of economic growth and the generation of wealth. It has enhanced productivity, streamlined systems, maximized efficiencies and enriched customer interactions. Yet trust in technologies, technology companies and service providers is waning, from both enterprises and consumers. While this decline is not yet a crisis, it is concerning – trust is the foundation for engaging and transacting digital business, and is an increasingly key factor in a company's growth and ultimate relevance in the marketplace.
The 451 Take
Adoption of advanced technologies, cloud services and service providers continues to rise. Over the last decade, consumers and businesses around the world have fanatically embraced technology, becoming increasingly dependent on all things digital. At first, many were wary about embracing tech like the cloud for mission-critical functions or private and protected data, but those fears were quickly overcome by the fear of being left behind in an increasingly digitized economy. Now that blind trust is being questioned and a collective unease is beginning to rise.
New, emerging tech is challenging long-standing cultural values, beliefs and attitudes, raising new concerns about the adoption and use of technology. These concerns are likely warranted, considering the steady flow of controversies over the past few months about how companies collect, manage, process and share data, with or without consent. Building trust is becoming more challenging as digital transformation disrupts traditional norms. It will be imperative that companies provide customers with understandable and verifiable explanations about and insight into the use of their data, any technological biases that exist, the risks that are inherent in the services being delivered, and how their data and systems are protected. To stop the decline of trust, businesses must empower their customers with control over what information is collected, how it is accessed, by whom (or what) and when; be transparent about how collected information is used; and show commitment to protecting that information.
High-profile, headline stories about personal data misuse like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal; data breaches like those of Equifax, Capital One and the American Medical Collection Agency; successful hacking attacks like NotPetya and WannaCry; and increasing nation-state activities like the power gird attacks in the Ukraine and alleged electoral meddling in the US are fueling a weakening trust and confidence in tech. It is not just prominent headlines that are feeding the decline – the lack of understanding and clarity of how it all 'works' and who controls and has access to data is a big part of the problem. Business leaders and consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about privacy infringements, the lack of clear lines of responsibilities and protocols, and the impact of emerging technologies.
We are well on our way to a future where every home, business, city and country will be connected. Everything from home appliances and security systems to automobiles and medical implants is becoming a 'smart device,' with capabilities that are becoming an integral part of our everyday lives. These devices gain increasing access to our personal data and have the capability to capture seemingly innocent, incoherent data points that, when woven together, can paint a very detailed picture of our individual personal tendencies, preferences and beliefs. In the wrong hands, this information will result in new forms of convincing, personalized, and targeted attacks on individuals and companies alike. But even in the 'right' hands, the companies with access to this information have unprecedented insight and power that have many concerned about manipulation, profiling, surveillance and exploitation.
Fortunately, most enterprises are genuinely concerned about protecting personal and private data, and using that data in an ethical manner. According to recent 451 Research surveys, information security was cited as the top area of IT to see budget increases this year, with over 87% of organizations reportedly increasing their security budgets by an average of 22%. Over 60% of enterprises indicated that data protection and security is the most important workload-related IT challenge facing their organizations. Challenges will only persist as organizations continue adopting emerging technologies faster than the enterprise can adapt to them. Enterprises report that they are facing acute skills shortages in almost every area of technology, especially in emerging tech like cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics.
The coming wave of new disruptive technologies and the pace of advancement of existing technologies have us staring down a future where it is impossible to predict all the applications, challenges and potential consequences these advancements will bring. While we have observed accelerated technology development throughout history, it all pales in comparison to the rate of advancement in today's modern world. One thing, however, is clear: Trust alone will not be a sufficient foundation on which to build the future digital economy. It must be built on confidence, and that confidence will only come from demonstrated commitment to both enterprise and personal priorities for digital security and privacy – a commitment that regulators as well as businesses are more focused on than ever before, and with far more serious consequences than increasingly harsh penalties alone.