Digital Trust

Christian Laux (Laux Lawyers AG)

Digital trust means the ability to rely on digital products and services. From the user’s perspective, trust can be understood as the expectation that providers will continue to fulfil their obligations also in future. Digital trust can also be described as the users’ tendency to use a digital product or service because they assume that the benefit is higher than whatever damage it may cause. In this sense, trust – and therefore also digital trust – is something that is attributed to the provider and not something the provider possesses.

The situation today

Practice shows that digital trust today is influenced by several factors. User experience, convenience, transparency and integrity play a key role. Transparency means that users are able to recognise how data is used and in which contexts. A provider is considered to be of integrity if it protects proactively the user’s values and data. The assessment of the provider’s trustworthiness also depends on its reputation and reliability. Providers of digital products and services obtain digital trust from their users for a short moment of time. With time this trust may eventually stabilise if the provider’s digital offer meets the above criteria.

Digital trust can be measured through surveys or by analysing data. A person who chooses to use a product confirms their digital trust in a company. Important indicators are for example the bounce rate, the brand experience or the affirmative answer to the question “Do you trust this company?”. In the development of digital trust technologies, Switzerland is situated in the middle field, i.e. neither at the top of the range, nor clearly lagging behind. The specific application of digital trust principles is only in its infancy.

Future prospects

Contrary to some beliefs, currently nothing indicates that implementing digital trust principles could obstruct the development of successful business models. On the contrary: forward-looking information architectures and business models can integrate digital trust principles in the architecture of digital offers right from the start. This should be taken more into account in the future when planning IT solutions and IT infrastructures. This means that digital trust does not cause any redundant costs and is not a significant cost driver. It is difficult to implement digital trust principles at a later date, especially with large software or cloud solutions, which may pose major challenges to digital service providers.

In the near future, digital trust principles will need to become a matter of course. At political level, the challenge lies in creating coordinated data spaces, like the Swiss Data Space. These data spaces create the possibility of sharing data according to clear rules, which will benefit the economy and society and allow for new data-based projects. Such data spaces must be consistently built in such a way that they have trust-building attributes. Otherwise they will not find acceptance.