bates1MEF’s 4th Annual Consumer Trust Summit, supported by F-Secure and AVG, takes place in New York City on 24 June, co-located with the 2nd Annual Privacy, Policy & Technology Summit. Where most conferences deal in the potential risks to businesses of getting privacy wrong, this event focuses on the opportunities it presents. Simon Bates, MEF’s Senior Advisor for Policy & Initiatives explains more…

What do people mean when they talk about ‘privacy’ in mobile apps and services? To some it means a regulatory headache: a big stick that might come crashing down on them in the shape of a government-sanctioned fine. To others it means a box-ticking exercise in providing consumers with as much information about how their data is used as is required to meet the letter of the law.

To an enlightened few, however, privacy means something more – it means ‘opportunity’. The chance to differentiate: to set their brand apart and rise above the noise in a crowded app store. The impetus to innovate: to develop new products and services that meet the demands of an evolving marketplace. And, most importantly, the desire to build trust and, in so doing, increase customer loyalty.

In truth, both interpretations are valid. Privacy can indeed pose an opportunity and a threat to businesses.

Regulatory compliance can be a headache for mobile businesses, especially as the global nature of the app market brings a web of regulatory jurisdictions into play from US Congress to the EU to individual nation states around the world. It’s important that execs do their homework and work out what they responsibilities they have and how to meet them.

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Some markets are riskier than others. The data collected by certain app categories like mHealth & fitness, banking & finance and children’s games & education is by its very nature extremely sensitive. There are particular rules that apply in these areas over and above standard data protection and privacy law. It’s important that businesses understand these rules and how they might impact them.

However, compliance is just part of the story. The more interesting part is how companies around the world are developing a business case for privacy as they quantify its impact the bottom line.

A more trusting customer spends more, engages more and tells her friends about it. Building trust through transparency and education makes for a more sustainable mobile market overall.

Also, let’s not forget the potential for innovation. For example, as customers learn the value of their data, a whole new market might emerge providing them with the tools to monetise it for themselves.

Future-gazers like Jaron Lanier have long pointed to a world in which consumers wrestle back ownership of their personal information from the internet giants to profit via micropayments. Someone needs to provide the data vaults and network exchanges to power this new industry.

Sure, privacy might bring with it risks and administrative burdens. But it also presents an opportunity for flexible, dynamic businesses to profit from consumers’ changing tastes and needs.

MEF’s 4th Annual Consumer Trust Summit will explore these opportunities as well as laying out the risks. It’s an essential event for anyone interested in the future of the mobile apps and services market. I hope to see you there!

MEF’s 4th Annual Consumer Trust Summit takes place in New York on June 24th. The theme of the event is “Trust as a business critical issue” – attendees will hear global perspectives on mobile privacy and get updates on regulation and it’s impact on your business, how to construct a business case for best practice privacy in the mobile ecosystem, and dealing with sensitive information-health, location and children & privacy. Speakers include Timo Laaksonen VP & General Manager for North America at F-Secure, as well as representatives from TRUSTe, InMobi, The Wireless Registry, FAS and Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum.

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