Despite the pandemic when investors reportedly were more careful with their investments, investors have poured a whopping $4.6 billion in cumulative funding in promising and emerging privacy tech companies. At the time of publishing this blog, Crunchbase showed the number of organizations in the privacy and security industry as 907.
Last year in 2020, two privacy technology startups, BigID and OneTrust, gained the unicorn status. Moreover, the concern of people regarding privacy and control over their data has led to an increase in adoption of the Signal app. Internet users have also started increasingly using privacy technology tools such as DuckDuckGo (search engine) and Brave (browser), as these are more privacy-conscious alternatives to existing “privacy invasive” search engines and browsers.
But what exactly is privacy tech and what exactly encompasses privacy? Why should businesses care about privacy now more than ever? All of this, and more, is talked about in this blog.
What is privacy?
What exactly does one mean when they say “privacy”? The Oxford dictionary defines privacy as “the state of being alone and not watched or disturbed by other people.” The Cambridge dictionary defined the term as “the state of being alone, or the right to keep one’s personal matters and relationships secret.”
In terms of control, privacy can be defined as the claim of individuals, institutions or groups to determine for themselves as to when, how as well as to what extent information about them will be communicated to others. This definition was given by Alan Westin.
Other definitions you’ll hear people say would be of the effect of – not being seen or observed by anyone, free from third-party attention and free from the public.
Now let’s understand what privacy means in the context of privacy tech.
What is privacy technology?
In terms of privacy tech, privacy leads to multiple definitions. It ranges in context from averting browser tracking via cookies, to minimizing your digital footprint and personal data from being shared by different parties. Privacy technology also means allowing companies that collect data and information to use and manipulate it in an acceptable, safe and secure way.
Are privacy tech & cyber security the same?
First things first – Privacy technology and cyber security do intersect, but they’re not the same. Privacy tech and cyber security intersect where the former requires that personal data and information be secured during its entire life-cycle (collection, use, storage, transit and destruction). But there’s a clear distinction between information privacy (privacy tech) and information security (cyber security) as well. Privacy tech also includes things apart from data security, which are notice and consent (transparency), purpose specification, data minimization, individual rights and much more.
Why should businesses care about privacy tech
The rise of privacy tech and its importance is increasing everywhere. In the United States, the Trump government had proposed rules that curtailed internet providers from collecting and selling customer data to marketers. With time, users are becoming more aware of how companies and malicious parties are collecting and using their data to harm them.
But why should you, as a company, care about privacy technology? Here’s why:
1. It matters to your customers
According to research by Pew Research Center, 81% of people surveyed said that they feel they have little to no control over the data and information collected by companies . Moreover, 79% of the people surveyed feel very/somewhat concerned about how the data collected by companies will be used. This means that customers are now thinking about their privacy first when they visit your website or download your app or purchase your products. So, it is important that you demonstrate, with conviction, to your customers that their privacy is your first priority, too.
When it comes to privacy, transparency is key. Enterprise customers and consumers should and deserve to know whether your company’s privacy-branded software and tools actually solve privacy issues being faced.
2. It is key for your brand
In today’s interconnected and interdependent world of e-commerce, organizations are connected to other business partners. They’re using hosted web stores, web hosting operations and separate email marketing providers. All of these use and deploy different ways of handling customer information.
The same goes with things like affiliate marketing, associations and referrals. This approach to data exposure translates to businesses needing to rethink more deeply about privacy.
Privacy is not just writing a couple of paragraphs that can be buried deep in the terms and conditions on your website. It is embedded in your company’s everyday interactions with its customers. It is something that massively impacts your company’s brand, enhances the customer experience and can potentially hurt the reputation of a company deeply.
3. Privacy matters for your business’s growth
Including privacy technology in your business to safeguard customer privacy is not just a protective measure, it is an opportunity for the growth of your brand and a promising business opportunity for startups and large corporations.
There is, undoubtedly, an increase in the number of connected devices in the world. According to the Statista Research Department, there’ll be over 75 billion IoT connected devices in the world by 2025 .
This significant increase in the number of connected devices, along with the concern of the consumer around privacy and security breaches, will further increase the already exceptional market opportunity around privacy.
Though the previous generation of billion-user tech giants, like Google and Facebook, is built on collecting data, it is expected that the next-gen billion user tech titans will be built around privacy and protecting user data.
Startups and entrepreneurs have a great opportunity of building new business out of this emerging reorientation regarding privacy and trust. New and better business opportunities will emerge that’ll be centered around privacy platforms as well as services for businesses and consumers.
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 Pew Research Center (2019) “Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information” [Online] Available from: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/11/15/americans-and-privacy-concerned-confused-and-feeling-lack-of-control-over-their-personal-information/ [Accessed October 2021]
 Statista Research Department (2016) “Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices installed base worldwide from 2015 to 2025” [Online] Available from: statista.com/statistics/471264/iot-number-of-connected-devices-worldwide/ [Accessed October 2021]