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Trust is a very human quality, and, like any other, it is a subject to cultural and social differences. To put it simply, trust is a faith in the ability, reliability, truth, and honesty of someone or something. Human trust takes time, and often years, to build, and even more time to recover after it has been broken. Digital trust, on the other hand, is checked at nanosecond intervals and is regularly violated, corrected and quantified to maintain the level of trust between people, computers, and the networks between them.
Digital trust is all about the relations between people, data, and networks. In the cyber world, this form of trust is created by continually checking the integrity of people, access points and connected systems. People rely on usernames, passwords, and other levels of authentication to identify themselves, which allows them to access machines, applications, and devices. Similarly, machines are authenticated using digital keys, caches, and certificates for secure communication between computers, as well as for establishing the security of computer identification.
In the modern era, there are at least three members in any network: trusted people, unreliable people or unreliable bots, as well as machines or connections that provide this connection. Digital trust is the foundation of any digital point of contact between people and devices. At the moment, we are at a crossroads with confidence: technology has accelerated the time it takes people, businesses, or even states to believe in new products or processes. Consider offering a house key to an unknown person (Airbnb) or getting into a stranger’s private car (Uber or BlaBlaCar). This new world of trust has unintended consequences that are not yet fully understood. As Botsman once said on one of the TED Talk programs: “The science of how trust works has not changed, but the process of actually giving our trust has changed. Technology cannot fundamentally change the work of the trust, but it changes our behavior and whom we trust “Digital tools change what we expect from people and how we interact with each other.”
Sure, each of us (we are all kind of futurologists) at least once wondered about the reliability of the technology, which strides with us side by side to this day, in the far perspective. Will we be able to rely on the right shoulder of technology or should we be ready for a knife in the heart? This question really bothers me. After decades of unbridled enthusiasm, bordering on addiction, on everything digital, the public may lose confidence in the technology. Information on the Internet is not considered reliable, regardless of whether it appears in the form of news, search results or user feedback. In particular, social networks are vulnerable to manipulation by hackers or foreign countries. Personal data is not necessarily personal. And people are increasingly concerned with automation and artificial intelligence, which take on the work of people.
Nevertheless, all over the world, people are increasingly dependent on digital technology and do not trust it. They do not behave as if they do not trust technology. Instead, people use technological tools more actively in all aspects of daily life. In recent research papers on digital trust in 42 countries, it was found that this phenomenon is considered as mass.
If modern technology giants take no action to solve this problem in the face of growing dependence, people can start looking for more reliable companies and systems for use. And it makes sense since such global Internet giants as Facebook or Google have already managed to give us a reason to be skeptical about our personal information as well as digital privacy in recent times. But such scandals are far from the only thing that can attract the attention of technical communities. By the end of 2017, the blockchain technology was supposed to protect itself from skeptics. In fact, the encryption-protected digital ledger is not about criminal activity, although it still tries to win favor in the hearts and minds of its users all around the world since people find it easier to trust outdated institutions rather than online banking or shopping technologies. And it is not true that today, technologies are subject to constant attacks and are considered as unreliable as never before. If you rewind a little back, you can dispel this myth. Yes, yes, all that noise did not start with Mark Zuckerberg, and even in this decade. For instance, the scandal with WorldCom was sparked in 2001, and The Dotcom Bubble back in 1997-2001.
Throughout the entire life cycle of the world wide web, data privacy, cybersecurity, and investment disruptions have existed. However, as in most industries, the network is becoming more secure every day. This is mainly due to the competitiveness and richness of the online market. If you cannot offer consumers a more innovative, intuitive, and at the same time safe product than another company, you are unlikely to last long. But, while network security is at a high level, security checks and trust seems to be getting lower and lower.
Interestingly, back in 2015, when the Brookings Institute conducted a sample survey among Americans about their greatest fears, fears directly related to technology also appeared in the top along with death, all sorts of paranormal things. For example, such as cyber-terrorism, tracking, and transparency of personal information, and what is most interesting, not fully explained the technology. Since then, technology has only become more complex, integrated and intertwined with our daily lives. And people, as beings that are prone to permanence, fear a change in their nature. And, of course, they are extremely skeptical about technologies, considering their pace of development exponentially. As it can be seen in the blockchain technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, the fearfulness of incorrect application and understanding of the technology as a whole leads to the strangulation of regulations and state control, which prevent innovation and progress in these areas. Thus, this mistrust and fear of the speed and prevalence of technology stop what may be important progress in many areas. Unmanned vehicles, robotic surgeries, or even wireless headphones — all of these technologies are on the verge of real change in the world, but fear holds them back.
There are some interesting differences in the behavior of mature and emerging markets in different geographic regions. In regions of the world with a smaller digital economy, where technology deployment is still in progress, users tend to show more trustworthy behavior on the Internet. These users are more likely to stick to the site, even if it loads slowly, it is difficult to use, or it requires many steps to make an online purchase. This may be due to the fact that the experience is still new and there are less convenient alternatives both online and offline.
Nevertheless, in mature digital markets e.g. Western Europe, North America or South Korea, such things as the Internet, social networks, smartphones and apps on them are used there for many years and people have used to them. Users in these places are less gullible, tend to switch from sites that do not load quickly, or they are difficult to use and refuse shopping baskets on the Internet if the buying process is too complicated. Since people in more mature markets have less confidence, it is only logical that in the future technology companies will invest in strengthening this confidence. For example, they can speed up and facilitate the processing of transactions and payments in electronic commerce or more clearly mark the sources of information presented on social networking sites, helping to identify reliable and reliable news sources.
Consider the story from Facebook. In response to the criticism for allowing fake Russian accounts to spread fake news on his website, CEO Mark Zuckerberg boldly stated that “protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.” Costs can increase by 45–60 percent if they invest heavily in building trust, for example, hiring more people to inspect jobs and develop artificial intelligence systems to help them. These costs will naturally reduce Facebook profits.
In order to find the very balance between profitability and reliability, Facebook will have to set priorities and introduce advanced confidence-building technologies (for example, check local news and advertising) only in certain geographic markets.
As the boundaries of the digital world expand and people become familiar with Internet technologies and systems, their distrust will grow. As a result, companies seeking to gain the trust of customers will be required to invest in increasing confidence from the entire world, for instance implementing such changes as the spread of encryption, flawless identity verification systems on the Internet, tightening security standards in Internet protocols, new laws and regulations, new techno-social systems, such as crowdsourcing etc. Those who do this will most likely see a competitive advantage, gaining more loyalty from consumers.
Here there is a risk of creating a new type of digital divide. Even when one global inequality disappears – more people have the ability to go online — some countries or regions may have significantly more reliable online communities than others. Especially in less trustworthy regions, users will need the government to adopt strict digital policies to protect people from fake news and fraud, as well as regulatory control to protect data privacy and consumer rights.
All consumers will have to beware of excessive actions on the part of the authorities, especially in those parts of the world where consumers are unfamiliar with the use of technology and, therefore, more trusting. And they will need to monitor companies so that they invest more evenly in building trust around the world, even in less mature markets. Fortunately, digital technologies facilitate the work of watchdogs, and can also serve as a megaphone — for example, in social networks – for issuing warnings or praises.
Personally, I believe that confidence on the Internet will be strengthened in the next decade. I believe in the emergence of advanced technologies that will allow people to trust organizations and individuals with whom they interact on the Internet. It is the improvements in user identification and authentication that will create this trust. Corporations dependent on online activity have all the incentives needed to solve trust-related issues. Also, the trust will be strengthened as users more fully use online activity in their lives.
Anyway, today technology affects almost every aspect of our lives, being a key factor in economic growth and wealth creation. Technology companies contribute to the progress of global stock markets, and the technologies they develop stimulate markets and investors in these markets.
Thus, despite some of the negative effects of technology, the world as a whole benefit from constant progress. Although many believe that there should be certain restrictions or control over certain technologies, the reality is that regulators often do not know about technologies, and the bureaucracy cannot react quickly enough to have any significant impact on its progress.
Innovation comes from everything from garage craftsmen to multi-billion organizations. Where would we be if regulators tried to control the founders of Apple and Microsoft or current technology leaders such as Amazon and Google?
The level of technological innovation is growing, and the problems of using technology often lag behind innovation. As a result, many people trust this technology.
Society needs to believe that technology will be used for the collective benefit. However, technology can and will be used for any possible applications. Trust must be based on the belief that people and society will use technology positively, and not for malicious purposes. In addition, people should not be afraid of the pace of technology development but must recognize that the future still has tremendous opportunities.
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