2021 will be a big year for privacy and a lot of it will centre around tech and cyber risk


As today, the 28th of January, is World Data Privacy Day, we would like to share with you what we feel are the top trends and predictions for 2021 and what will we be looking out for over the coming months?

Here are our top three trends:

Trend 1: Online safety is key

Cyber security will become a business priority. Personal online safety becomes a business’ resilience, as working from home blurs the lines between our individual online habits and our business cyber defence strategies.

Trend 2: Data ethics is a commercial differentiator

Customers want convenient and superior service; but they are also aware that businesses are collecting their data. You will need to be transparent about what you are doing; secure the data you are collecting and be seen to be trustworthy.

Trend 3: The explosion of technology devices

IoT as well as the rush to cloud-everything means that tech is everywhere. The threat landscape has increased, and threat actors have found new gaps.  Business resilience needs built in compliance and technological responses.

So what does that mean for companies when they are implementing their 2021 strategy?

Well, these trends are impacting all companies that are dealing with customers and employees as well as deciding which technology systems they select. Let’s explore these areas in more detail from the perspective of the customers, the employees and the technology.

Focus on online customers. Consumers want control over the data they share with companies. They want consent preferences (think consent management centres) and data subject requests in understandable, ease-to-access formats.  Privacy and cookie notices will need to be clear and concise. Companies have also seen that customers want to engage with their brands and build communities. Not only influencers but all consumers have the opportunity to shift their role from passive to active, and are increasingly doing so.  Such activities will obviously provide companies with better data but also pose questions about the ownership of content, controllership of processing it and the underlying intellectual property rights.

Companies will need to collect more employee data simply owing to the fact that employees are more home based and using company equipment in a different way. This creates risk for companies and leaves them vulnerable to threat actors and other accidents or insecurities. Whilst companies tighten up on one hand, they will have to be very careful about the employee information they collect and why. There will be a fine line between privacy and corporate necessity. Again, the key here is to remain transparent.

In terms of security, remember information security is 80% people and 20% technology, so put your efforts into training and awareness. While providing employees the tools to adapt to the environment, companies should remember to review their training schemes. First, everyone must be able to adapt and prosper in the digital world. Second, every employee must understand the tools’ privacy red flags and how they can contribute to the company’s values in respect of others privacy. Implementing clear and ethical rules on the employees’ personal data will build trust and increase security.

Companies will start to invest in tech, and this of course will require training and assessing internal company policies, as well as new ways of handling (new) data incidents. Taking the time to make sure everyone is comfortable with new systems and technologies will pay off in the long run. As we are seeing an online global shopping boom, compliance in e-commerce is essential. Companies will have to bridge the digital/physical division between offline policies with online content and sales, e.g.  product videos and extended online return policies. Selected technologies bringing the goods and services to the customer’s doorstep will need to include the right privacy-by-design approach to capitalise on the long-term. Companies cannot ignore privacy; they need to embrace it to make it a competitive advantage.

This may all sounds pretty complicated, expensive and scary! Don’t worry, it is possible to approach it in a simple way. Let’s compare this to a marketing campaign and use the same measurement criteria to do a kind of health check:

  • Gaps: identify where the gaps are and what are the needs? What are you missing to be recognised internally and external as an ethical company when it comes to personal data?
  • Strategize: you cannot be perfect, so prioritise. Where can you drive the change? What are the quick fixes and the ones required in the long-term?
  • Apply: make privacy a key winning component of your company and your brand. Set reasonable goals that your employees will understand and adopt. The implementation will then become meaningful.

Businesses can no longer ignore privacy; they need to embrace it and make it a competitive advantage. Doing this NOW and running your privacy programme early will reap long term benefits, build customer and brand trust, and essentially position your business as a preferred service when others are finding themselves shut out.

Check out more information on how to form and implement effective digital and data strategies here.

Article authors:  Caroline Perriard and Annick O’Brien

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