Trust and the Digital World
As you go to work, your top responsibility should be to build trust.
- Robert Eckert, CEO, Mattel
Trust in the Physical World
How do you ascertain the identity of somebody? For example, when signing a contract, opening a new bank account or when applying for a new loan.
You will probably rely on some form of government or bank issued credentials such as an identity card, a passport, a driver’s license, a credit card, or something that an institution you trust that has been issued.
And, interestingly, you will attach varying degrees of trust to each of these identifiers of identity. A debit card, with its pin, is a good representation in many day-to-day financial transactions. A passport is probably the token you will trust most in travel or real estate transactions.
Furthermore, once someone’s identity is clear, how do you establish whether you can trust him or her to perform the agreed action? Such as paying the bill, delivering the goods or provisioning the service? In the real world, our trust is based on one’s reputation and history of similar performed deliverables. In the real world, you could front and confront the person
Trust and the Internet
Now let’s look at the online world. One immediate and major difference is that the online world is by design global. The person you are dealing with may be in your neighborhood or may be on the other side of the planet. Establishing the identity and the associated trust is made very difficult because we are virtual beings online.
A good example are the social networks of today such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others that allow us to publish our virtual identities whether they be real of fabricated online.
In 2006, Facebook had a total of 9 million online subscribers. Today, Facebook is well over 2 billion in online subscribers. In general, users of social networking sites have jumped to a facade of trust and have become “friends” with dozens of strangers and unfamiliar people.
The web rewards openness, involvement, contribution and engagement. And the more trust we throw out, the more the Internet opens up rewards us with increasing interactions.
While this may seem all very positive and welcome, due diligence requires that every user turns their attention to the security risks posed by those that want to take advantage of our blind faith and blind trusts.
For example, there is a natural tendency to provide as much information as possible about us. Typically, such information includes name, residential address, date of birth, where we went to school, our businesses, our pets, our hobbies, our tastes for shopping, our likes for music, games and friends. Unfortunately by providing this information we are giving organisations the tools needed to target specific goods and services directly to us. Now this may be fine but the more information you reveal about yourself the greater the possibility of it being used for social ill by others.
We have become comfortably numb where we click on every link we receive and post the most intimate details about our lives. As a result, users do not exercise the same amount of cautionary on social networks as they would when communicating face-to-face. Out trust values has dissipated due to the very nature of the Internet being open, global and interactive.
It’s Usability Versus Security. And surely security is losing out.
Something to Think About
As we move along the digital timeline, one of the ongoing challenges is to think about how the rapid progress of technology will impact trust. Where will we be in five years’ time? Will out trust be diluted?
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