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Consumer trust and engagement is an imperative for a healthy mobile ecosystem. Anurag Lal, CEO of MEF Member Infinite Convergence, explains how self-regulation and technology innovation can protect the mobile industry’s value proposition.

In the newly released Jason Bourne movie, a hot technology company called Deep Dream, a fictionalized Facebook, announces amazing mobile social media technology with much fanfare.

Deep Dream, unfortunately, turns out to be a front company for the CIA, which is using the technology to spy on every private citizen in the world. As a result of this disclosure of the technology industry’s massive betrayal of trust to its citizenry, public outrage — and multiple high-speed car chase scenes — ensue.

That such large-scale breaches of consumer trust are now being featured so prominently in Hollywood blockbusters should come up as a wake-up call to those of us in the mobile industry who may be in our own “deep dream” — laser-focused on executing our own business models without considering the possibility that a massive failure in consumer trust could put us all out of business in a hurry.

Empires Do Fail – Waking Up and Smelling the Coffee

When I gave a keynote address at the recent MEF Consumer Trust Summit, I made a simple pitch with respect to the mobile industry vis-à-vis consumer trust and privacy. If we do not self-regulate and innovate to solve the growing consumer trust problem, then consumer confidence in the mobile ecosystem will be shattered and we will all suffer the consequences.

Sure, the mobile industry generated $3.1 trillion in value as contribution to world GDP in 2015, and, yes, our mobile operator networks serve over 4.7 billion unique subscribers. The sheer weight and size of the mobile empire might leave many to believe that we are invincible.

But empires do fail, and, most often, overconfidence and a failure to plan well for the future are root cause.

What You and I Can Do

As an individual company with the mobile ecosystem, all we can do is to do right by the consumer. Be transparent in what we do and protect consumer data relentlessly.

   An industry is only as strong as its weakest links. In the mobile ecosystem, we have financial institutions, technology and platform providers, mobile operators, device manufacturers, service providers, app developers and media and content providers. All of us touch the mobile consumer. Any one of us can cause a breakdown in trust.”

A recent study conducted by my firm, Infinite Convergence, found that 41 percent of enterprise organizations ban messaging apps for internal communication. This is somewhat disturbing in light of messaging’s fast-growing role in human communications. Indeed, a Pew Research Center study determined last year that messaging use had overtaken voice and email use for the first time, and the projection is that we will have 6.3 billion users by 2020. If enterprises don’t trust that messaging apps are trustworthy and are blocking employee use, then our industry need only look in the mirror to find out who is to blame.

Firms like Infinite Convergence, and your firm for that matter, can innovate to solve the trust, security and privacy issues. For example our enterprise messaging platform NetSfere has seen great success because we intensely focused our value proposition on security.

Only when consumer and company data is secure can there be trust that what is meant to be private is actually kept private. We now process over 1 trillion messages per year at Infinite Convergence, and the right to handle that volume of messages can only be earned when one is obsessed with building and maintaining trust.

More Than Just Innovation Is Needed

But innovation is only half of the solution to inoculating the industry against an epidemic of growing consumer mistrust.

An industry is only as strong as its weakest links. In the mobile ecosystem, we have financial institutions, technology and platform providers, mobile operators, device manufacturers, service providers, app developers and media and content providers. All of us touch the mobile consumer. Any one of us can cause a breakdown in trust.

Together we rise. Together we fail. Accordingly, we must work together to self-regulate. Otherwise, government and regulatory agencies will be pressured to fill the gap, and I, for one, would prefer that we determine our own fate as much as possible, rather than having outsiders decide the best way for the mobile industry to protect consumer trust.

How We Can Work Together to Solve the Consumer Trust Problem

This can be as simple as collaborating with each other on best practices, standards and governance. I’m convinced, however, that what really must be done is to give control and ownership of consumer data back to the consumer. That requires an industry wide effort, and it should not be delayed.

I am myself surprised that this matter has not already come to a head. With everything that is stake, and with the Snowden revelations of 2014 and myriad high-profile cybersecurity breaches of consumer data, it’s odd that there is such limited awareness within the consumer population of the challenges that they face with regard to their data being out in the public domain. Surely, though, this is only temporary, and we, as industry leaders, should seize this window of opportunity to get our consumer privacy and trust house in order.

Anurag-Lal-e1362553223265Anurag Lal


Infinite Convergence

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More importantly, we must proactively educate our citizens and make them aware of the issues at hand. Consumer data is an important aspect of the holistic service experience we are providing as an industry, so, more than anything else, we must be transparent and honest with consumers.

Mind you, this approach of honesty and transparency does not work out well for the CEO of Deep Dream in the Bourne movie.

But that’s fiction.

In the real world, there is nothing more sacrosanct than consumer trust, and those who protect it will certainly do well as our industry evolves.

One Comment

  • Geoff Revill says:

    Completely agree, although conflating security with privacy and adding transparency to achieve trust is simplifying the issue quite a lot. Security is not privacy, but in a digital context its almost (not entirely) impossible to offer privacy without building on the foundations of security, but having security in no way ensures privacy or indeed user control of ‘their’ data, that takes a whole other level of innovation.
    You may be interested in an event we ran that may run again next year (media supported by the MEF) called in which these issues were discussed in far more depth.