The internet is nearly 40 years old, and it’s starting to grow up. It’s becoming a place where safety, privacy and authenticity are absolutely vital. The free-for-all, anything-goes digital communication superhighway has gone forever.
Our article on ‘learning to play nicely online’ highlights how changing attitudes are tied to the seismic shift in digital/real-world relationships that happened during the pandemic.
The worldwide web 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 from large corporations to startups must boost their data security credentials and gain the confidence of their online audience if they want to stay on course for success.
The key is to have the systems and technology in place to guarantee security and confidentiality.
What are authentication and privacy?
Authentication basically means using a form of validation to ensure something is true or real. An example of an authentication verification process would be logging into a website which asks us to provide our account name and password.
Privacy is concerned with keeping confidential information secret, which involves a method of preventing unauthorised users from accessing and interpreting users’ data.
It is vital that brands explore ways to achieve better security to prove they have a watertight system in place.
Authenticity: being a reliable source
Fake news is a major problem for online platforms and is a risk to their reputation in a competitive environment. Customers themselves are growing much warier of the issue.
Researchers say that 59% of users are concerned that fake news on social media negatively impacts other people. As a result, companies are placing a much higher emphasis on the provision of reliable information.
74% of respondents to Ofcom’s Online Nation research 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 the accuracy and authentication of high-quality information.
Social networks are seen as the worst offenders when it comes to the publication of fake news. Facebook is deemed the likeliest place to carry misinformation.
Overcoming the challenges of fake news
Social platforms want to weed out fake news – it makes people less informed, and it risks eroding trust.
Facebook uses a combination of technology, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as peer reviews and in-house assessment to create a check for fake news on its site.
WhatsApp limits the number of times a message can be forwarded, making it harder for misinformation to be transmitted and spread. While TikTok has taken the lead by applying warning banners on misleading videos.
Research shows that users are increasingly concerned about unchecked fake news.
It is for everyone’s benefit that established social media platforms take steps to fight misinformation. Doing so is the only answer to stopping ‘spammers’ trying to make money by pretending to be legitimate news publishers to get people to visit their websites, which are often mostly ads.
Privacy: being responsible with users’ information
Another major concern for online customers is privacy. Businesses are used to being able to take whatever data they want from a person, and many don’t see any other way of doing business.
Many American websites control this by simply blocking traffic from Europe rather than dealing with the GDPR process, which they see as more trouble than it’s worth.
Attitudes to sharing data
This ‘all or nothing’ attitude isn’t justified by user behaviour. To put this into context, although 21% of respondents in the Ofcom Online Nation report didn’t want to hand over their data under any circumstances, the overriding message was that more than half were happy to be tracked if they trusted the data collector.
Businesses should therefore think about how to demonstrate they can be trusted with data instead of worrying about how they’ll get hold of data from a person. And they should be ensuring they have the systems in place to guarantee information security.
Apple’s decision to set data-tracking by apps to off by default is a big step in this direction since businesses can’t just take the data; they have to ask for it. However, 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 offers no communication on how it will be used. Instead, their warning message to consumers is that the platform will become limited and 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 benefits to their customers instead of trying to justify why the market shouldn’t change.
The role of data encryption in online security
Encryption is an important way for companies to protect and secure sensitive information from hackers.
Banks and retailers lead the way in using security software and systems to secure sensitive information like credit card numbers and bank account information.
Its implementation is a key part of delivering accountability and building trust. It’s in everyone’s interests that there is a system in place to guarantee security and prevent identity theft and other fraudulent practices.
Five business benefits of encryption software
- Data protection – keeps companies’ data secure, minimising the risk of costly data security breaches and ensuring transactions on all devices are protected.
- Legal compliance – provides a way to ensure companies are operating in line with all data protection legislation.
- Secure data transfer – protect confidential information on all devices at every stage of its journey, and stay in control of any files or documents so the company can keep them safe from data loss or theft.
- Maintain company control – improve cyber security by preventing hackers from making ransom demands by ensuring data can’t be accessed and tampered with.
- Communicating over multiple devices – ensure company data across all devices is fully encrypted with the same high-security levels used for sensitive information on personal computers.
The importance of quality online experiences
People are willing to pay for networks that deliver the authenticity and all things privacy they’re looking for, so it makes sense for companies to communicate this.
As we explored in a previous article, major news brands like the New York Times have had success with subscription models.
The concept of giving subscribed users access to platforms via a secure paywall is becoming an increasingly common approach.
Analysis shows the number of paying subscribers to news sites in the UK has grown by 51%. This added 800,000 members between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, to 3 million in total.
Paying for other types of digital content
News is not the only sector which has seen the introduction of online transactions to permit access and 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 message here is that the growing digital creator economy clearly demonstrates how digital content has real, tangible worth to consumers.
Businesses must understand that people are looking for high-quality content – and they are willing to exchange something to get it.
Data, email signups, and social connections are important currencies in today’s online world. Users are happy to register and hand these over to external parties in exchange for content they want.
Meeting the gold standard of digital content
The message here is the oldest one in marketing – sell people what they want to buy. Internet users appreciate authenticity, privacy, security and quality.
They will go out of their way to get it if their needs are met in the transaction. Brands must adapt to this ever-changing market by providing secure access to the technology and services their audiences are seeking.
A world of opportunities
The digital landscape offers plenty of opportunities for brands that have incorporated information security into their systems and balanced this with the need to take users’ concerns into account.
Our ‘lecture notes’ to brands are to navigate the new terrain wisely and ensure user communication is at the heart of your security strategy. You need to explain what your platform provides and how sensitive information is secured.
For more insight and guidance on how to boost your brand’s online value, contact the Ambitious PR team today.