privacy and authenticity

The Internet grows up: privacy and authenticity

Brands must provide privacy and authenticity to succeed online.


The internet is nearly 40 years old, and it’s starting to grow up. It’s becoming a place where safety, privacy and authenticity carry high values rather than a free-for-all, anything-goes space.

This changing attitude is tied to the seismic shift in digital/real-world relationships that’s happened during the pandemic. The internet matters more than it used to, both socially and for essential services. Usage of the NHS digital service was up almost 60% in February 2021, compared with a year earlier. Brands must gain the confidence of their online audience if they want to be successful.

Authenticity: being a reliable source


Fake news is a major problem with online platforms, and it’s an issue that users are growing much warier of. 59% of users are concerned that fake news on social media is having a negative impact on other people, and as a result, people are placing a higher emphasis on reliable information. 74% of respondents to Ofcom’s Online Nation report say they think twice about believing what they read online, particularly on social media. FullFact, an independent UK-based fact-checker, has seen monthly visitors in the UK grow from about 400,000 to around 600,000, showing a growing appetite for accurate, high-quality information.

Social platforms are seen as the worst offenders when it comes to fake news. Facebook as the likeliest place that internet users will see misinformation. Social platforms want to weed out fake news in response. Facebook uses a combination of machine learning, peer reviews, and in-house assessment to check for fake news on its site. WhatsApp limits the number of times a message can be forwarded, making it harder for misinformation to spread, while TikTok has applied warning banners to misleading videos. Social platforms recognise that users are worried about unchecked fake news, and are seeking to improve the user experience.

It’s easy to fall into the misinformation trap. One infamous example that brands fall prey to is “if a picture is worth a thousand words, a minute of video is worth 1.8 million”. The quote is attributed to a Dr. James McQuivey (who works for a marketing consultancy), who took the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and applied it to the number of frames in a minute of typical video (1,800). There isn’t any evidential basis to this quote, but it still surfaces on high-profile brand sites as ‘proof’. Brands can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to the information they share, because this immediately compromises their authenticity and therefore their value to consumers.

Privacy: being responsible with users’ data

Another major concern for internet users is privacy. Businesses are used to being able to take whatever data they want from users, and many of them don’t see any other way of doing business. Many American websites simply block traffic from Europe rather than dealing with GDPR, which they see as more trouble than it’s worth.

This ‘all or nothing’ attitude isn’t justified by user behaviour. Although 21% of respondents in the Ofcom Online Nation report didn’t want to hand over their data under any circumstances, more than half of respondents were happy to be tracked if they trusted the data collector. Businesses should be thinking of how to demonstrate they can be trusted with it instead of worrying about how they’ll get hold of user’s data,

Apple’s decision to set data-tracking by apps to off by default is a big step in this direction since companies can’t just take the data; they have to ask for it. Facebook, which makes a lot of money from using vast pools of user data, is not happy with the change.

Facebook doesn’t try to allay fears about data collection and how it’ll be used. They explain how their app will be limited, and how the platform could become a paid-for product. But, as we’re about to see, that isn’t the threat they might think it is. Smart brands will work out how to offer real value to their customers instead of trying to justify why the market shouldn’t change.

The value of a quality experience with

privacy and authenticity


People are willing to pay for platforms that deliver the authenticity and privacy they’re looking for. As we’ve explored previously, major news brands like the New York Times have had success with subscription models, and this is becoming a more common approach. The number of paying subscribers to news sites in the UK grew by 51%. This added 800,000 members between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, to 3 million in total.

News is far from the only sector where quality commands a premium. Users can support video creators through Patreon, subscribe to paid editorial content on Revue, or pay gamers on Twitch. The growing digital creator economy is an excellent example of how digital content has a real, tangible value to consumers. Businesses must understand that people are seeking out high-quality content. They are willing to exchange something of value to get it. Data, email signups, and social connections have a lot of value in today’s world. Users are happy to hand these over in exchange for content they value.

Meeting the gold standard of internet content

The message here is the oldest one in marketing – sell people what they want to buy. The modern internet user values authenticity, privacy, and quality. They will go out of their way to get it. Brands must adapt to this changing market by providing the service that their audience is seeking.


  • People are aware that fake news is a problem, and are wary of sites that feature it. Brands should be careful with what they say because being trustworthy is part of their online value.


  • Privacy is a real concern, but the majority of people are willing to provide their data to businesses they trust. Earn that trust, because the days of harvesting data without permission are ending rapidly.


  • Consumers will exchange something of value in order to access a quality, valuable product. Brands that create content of value to consumers are in an excellent position to benefit from it.


This changing landscape offers plenty of opportunities for brands that navigate it wisely. For more insight and guidance on how to boost your brand’s online value, contact the Ambitious PR team today.

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