Why the long face?

So what is the big issue really? So what if a bit of horse has turned up in some burgers, the French eat horse after all. Well at the nub of it, yet again, is trust. The major issue with the horse meat fiasco is that there is uncertainty about where this meat came into the system and therefore issues around the quality and whether it is fit for consumption. As consumers, we put our trust in the providers of these products and assume that they are assuring that the quality of that food is as it should be. Critically, we assume that what the packet says it contains is actually what it contains.

This situation is just the latest in a long line of ‘let downs’ for the consumer, and they occur in every sector. The worry for the food industry is that this could be just the tip of the iceberg and once people lose their trust in a brand it is very hard to restore that trust. In digital the situation is very similar and our responsibilities to our users is exactly the same. Users instill trust in us when they interact with brands and with online assets, assuming that we are being responsible in the way we operate.

I have previously written about the EU “cookie law” and the principle that at its heart it is about trust. This recent news in the food sector highlights basic trust issues that we need to consider, because as digital practitioners cookies are just the tip of the iceberg. Take, for example, app development. If you download a new app and it has no location based features then when you load it up you wouldn’t expect to be asked if the app can log your location. Similarly, if you are using a navigation app then you wouldn’t expect the app to need your personal details in order to work. For a lot of people this is a very real imposition because the app, for no particular reason, is collecting personal information. The immediate question for a savvy user is “why do you need that information, how are you going to use it?” and the resulting response is likely to be a lack of trust, suspicion and possibly even deleting the app.

Storing data is another area of real concern for users. As I mentioned above, the first issue is asking for ‘unnecessarily’ data about someone. The second is how that data is being used and if it is being stored securely. The media is filled with stories about data disks being left on trains, people hacking into websites and stealing information and so called experts assuring us that data is never secure. Whilst this media attention is unhelpful, it highlights how much of an issue the normal person considers this to be. Our responsibility is to take the right steps to make sure that our builds are as secure as possible, including robust testing. It is also our responsibility to make sure we only store the data that is actually needed and that we explain, clearly and simply, why we need this data and what we do with it. It is also important to give users the chance to remove their data as well. Not least, this complies with the data protection act, but more importantly it shows a two way trust.

It is paramount that we show respect to our users and in return they will engage with our brands. Trust needs to be at the heart of everything that we do, whether it is communicating with them, the way we design our online presence for them, or in the way that we treat them and their data. Without trust there is no loyalty in a customer and that will ultimately mean it is harder to make them spend their money with us. Instead, we shuold cultivate good and trusted relationships with our customers and ten they will become advocates of our brands.

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