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February 02, 2016
Combining Data Security with Digital Ethics to Enhance Customer Trust—Accenture Technology Vision 2016
By: Mike Salvino

As enterprises become increasingly digital, they are improving their ability to act and react quickly. Like never before these digital leaders can launch products and services more rapidly. Collect data from hundreds of millions of Internet of Things devices. Personalize customer interactions in real-time. Connect with new business partners across industries to form an ecosystem.

But here’s the catch. Every one of these new capabilities comes with added responsibility--security risks. Ones that are proportionally larger than the data protection issues companies have dealt with before. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at the implications of this “Digital Trust” trend in the Accenture Technology Vision 2016.

Digital businesses know it is essential to secure data at every step of the data supply chain and they are investing heavily in security initiatives to achieve this aim. Cyber security breaches are still a top concern, which makes IT security a critical agenda item. In time, Accenture predicts data sharing will be context-aware and dynamic. Think of it as the “data will be alive.” Data sharers will be able to revoke and add permissions to data at any time or place in the data supply chain. This will reduce risk from data consumers and provide unprecedented control over data throughout its lifecycle.

However, focusing on security is not enough. Succeeding in the digital business era also requires protecting trust—that intangible but absolutely indispensable element that companies must build and maintain with their customers. Digital trust is a key differentiator in the digital economy. 

Sustaining digital trust
Digital businesses need to maintain trust to use and share big data. They need it to develop ecosystem connections to a range of business partners. They need it to satisfy regulators and cybersecurity insurers. Most importantly, they need to build trust at every engagement point of the customer journey to sustain long-term relationships (see Figure 1).  

Trust Happens at Every Step of the Customer Journey

In order to earn a high level of trust, companies must excel in two areas: 

  • Data ethics—Moral governance of the integrity, handling, control and provenance of data

  • Digital ethics—Data ethics and moral governance of actions taken as a result of insights derived from the analysis of information (where information is data with context).

Embedding data and digital ethics into the enterprise
Every time digital businesses build a platform, system or API, they will increasingly have to understand the security issues and the ethical issues. They will need to procure technology that incorporates these things to the point where Accenture suggests that “security will be personalized”  and the context of use will define security, not authentication or device. Finally, businesses will need to monitor continually to make sure they remain steadfast to high standards of both data ethics and digital ethics. This is critical, especially where data is needed to inform personalized services at scale, using technologies that require troves of personally identifiable information (PII).

We’ve already seen the breaches that happen when data ethics break down in enterprises. The stakes are higher with digital ethics and the downside is potentially huge--loss of customer trust, market share and company valuation. In fact, Accenture believes “ethical failures are coming.”  Over the next few years a wave of large companies will have high-profile ethical incidents with the way they leverage technology.

Businesses must foster strong digital ethics and effectively use security to protect against external threats. Without comprehensive policies, training, incentives and consequences for data and digital ethics, exposure to risk increases and adverse outcomes are more likely. For this reason, we predict that eventually “ethics will be digitized and enforced,” monitored in a similar fashion to security breaches.

The best way to minimize downside risks is to maximize trust. Organizations must manage data ethics and digital ethics as core strategies for mitigating business risks, just as they do with cybersecurity. Their reward? Unprecedented growth in an interconnected, platform economy. 

How is your enterprise integrating data ethics and digital ethics into your security processes? 

To learn more about this year’s Accenture Technology Vision, I invite you to read the chapter highlights, check out a range of informative at-a-glance visuals, view our videos and slideshares, and keep checking this blog for more discussion of these trends.

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