A recent report summary produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘OECD’) highlighted that many countries are placing too much emphasis on developing their digital economies and are neglecting the privacy of individuals as a result. Drawing from surveys undertaken in most of the OECD’s 34 member countries, the OECD found that two-thirds of survey respondents are more concerned about their online privacy than they were last year and believe countries are not putting enough investment into dealing with these concerns.

Sophisticated technology offers numerous opportunities for individuals but also is very capable of causing disruption of, and intrusion to, their privacy. As Andrew Wyckoff, an OECD representative, emphasised, with the arrival of ‘big data’ and the Internet of Things, digital economies evolve so quickly that digital privacy and security must catch up. It is easy to talk about the potential that a growing digital industry offers a country’s economy, but investment and growth will only occur if consumers trust the technology enough to engage with it. Privacy and security are crucial to this.

Governments are becoming increasingly aware of the crucial part that privacy and security have to play.  As we have discussed previously in the Technology Law Dispatch, the UK government is pumping billions of pounds into the security of its digital economy and policymakers globally have been increasingly keen to introduce mandatory breach reporting and cybersecurity policies to encourage organisations to improve the protection of data. Private organisations have followed suit and the OECD estimates that Fortune 1,000 companies now spend $2.4 billion each year on privacy programs and ‘transparency reports’ to address the so-called ‘trust gap’.

The OECD report points out that despite the amount of spend, additional steps are needed.  In particular they suggest implementing national privacy strategies that complement cyber security strategies to ‘address issues in a coordinated, holistic manner’. The success of digital economies will closely correlate with the effectiveness of data protection and privacy policies as consumer confidence begins to take on a key role in whether digital advances will be profitable. Organisations should be taking the lead in this without having to wait for legislation.  Designing products and services based on a trusted consumer outcome will result in economic growth.