In this guest post, Founder and Executive Chairman of Julian Ranger discusses the concept of a trust framework for personal data, along with the potential for use of an internationally recognised symbol such as a kitemark.

The need for a trust framework to ratify who we can safely charge with holding even the most sensitive personal data from every area of our lives is becoming increasingly urgent.

As trust becomes the key consumer differentiator in an ever more data-driven and personalised world, how we identify those who will be good stewards of our digital identities has never been more important.

Consumers will only share data when they feel safe, so businesses who want to access data need to demonstrate how they have engineered privacy into their designs. Innovation flourishes when both of these criteria are met, and the ensuing benefits of that flow through every section of society, from government down.

That’s why, together with the Omidyar Network, was delighted to sponsor the recent MEF Trust Advantage workshop as part of KuppingerCole’s Consumer Identity World Tour event in Paris.

The interactive session explored the potential for creating a trust framework for personal data, including the potential for businesses who met the accepted standard to be awarded an internationally recognised symbol such as a kitemark.

This Trust Mark would give consumers confidence that any company holding it had met good stewardship, compliance and respect standards around the collection or use of personal data.

But, perhaps more importantly, it would also give businesses a means of effectively using trust as a differentiator to communicate their credibility and integrity alongside whatever they are trying to achieve.

 This Trust Mark would give consumers confidence that any company holding it had met good stewardship, compliance and respect standards around the collection or use of personal data… it would also give businesses a means of effectively using trust as a differentiator to communicate their credibility and integrity …”

The workshop concluded with an interactive discussion covering many issues including the benefits of such a mark; the governance framework that would be required; what to include in terms of requirements and the level to which those requirements should be defined; additional innovation such as incorporating consumer feedback; and much more.

These will be documented by the MEF  team and distributed through the Consumer Trust Working Group. There was a clear perceived benefit expressed by the attendees for a mark, though it was acknowledged that creating and agreeing all aspects of an associated Trust Framework will be a hard task.

My speech to the workshop is below – I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the issue and how we best solve it.

“Putting your trust in someone puts you at risk – it makes you vulnerable. Trust is the bridge between the known and the unknown.

If we are to share more personal data than we do today, we are stepping into the unknown, increasing our risk, our vulnerability as individuals.

We need a signal that this option is safe – can be trusted – that there is no risk and it exposes us to no new vulnerabilities.

That is the role of a Trust Mark, and its associated Trust Framework.

There are Trust Marks today, of course, and many Trust Frameworks, BUT…

…They are not well recognised and/or are used in very specific conditions.

Some are very clear (you have seen Orange’s today for example), but many are more opaque.

Despite these issues, they have been shown to have a positive effect with more business being done when a Trust Mark is displayed than when not.

Today we have unnecessary duplication of effort that actually only ends up confusing the customer – if they recognise the various marks at all.

I contend we need a single, easily understood and clear Personal Data Trust Mark and associated Trust Framework that can be widely adopted, that enables a consumer anywhere in the world to know that they are safe sharing who they are, their identity and personal data with the business that has been independently assessed as meeting the TF.

A very simple example of a Trust Mark is the padlock in the browser URL bar.

The question then arises: what is trust?

What are the important characteristics that need to be defined and met to provide the assurance required from a consumer perspective?

This is the key question that will drive a TF that can be widely adopted.

Trust has been built over centuries face to face and through established institutions.

But trust doesn’t scale well, and over the internet we have started to lose trust just at the time we want to do more, to scale more.

Nothing is fool proof, of course, but we need to do more in building trust and in recovery of trust when things do go wrong.

I believe agreeing and using an internationally recognised Trust Mark and Framework, that can be implemented across the world, will be a major step to ensuring consumers can trust those businesses that adopt it.

Giving a positive edge in persuading customers to make available their data to allow businesses to provide wider, deeper, engaging services and products based on that data.”

Julian Ranger

Founder and Executive Chairman,


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