By: Jesse Davis West November 06, 2018

Many consumers today desire privacy, security and convenience at the same time. But these factors can often seem in direct opposition to each other. While it’s possible to provide customers with all three, different businesses are going to prioritize these factors in different ways.

In his new book, The New Rules of Consumer Privacy, FaceFirst CEO Peter Trepp asked some business leaders how to prioritize these three vital factors. Here’s what they had to say along with some of Peter’s own thoughts on the subject.

“One of the biggest challenges businesses find themselves in is balancing consumer privacy, security, and convenience. More convenience often leads to lower levels of security and thus privacy. A good illustration of this would be two-factor authentication versus a weak password. Obviously two-factor authentication is a more time-intensive user experience but it provides much more security and privacy over the opposite, a weak password.

Privacy, security, and convenience each need to be prioritized. However, at the end of the day, one reigns supreme…. Security. We can learn a lesson from the massive data breaches that have occurred (and continue to occur) each year. Whether it’s credit card information or social security numbers, when security isn’t a top priority, privacy and convenience mean nothing.”

Dan Scalco 

Owner, Digitalux 

Order Peter’s book The New Rules of Consumer Privacy

“I think it goes back to value exchange. Consumers have a range of things they are willing to give up or give away, but only so long as they feel like they are getting something out of it. Case in point: if, as consumers walked into a retail store, an employee with a tablet stopped them and said, “Hey, give me your email address so we can send you some ads”, the opt-in rate there would be very low. But if the employee was at the register, and the value proposition was “Give me your email address so I can email you the receipt”, then the opt-in rate is usually higher. Consumers have been shown to be much more willing to give up personal information in exchange for knowing where their orders are, or to make it easier to make a return later, etc., and less willing to give up personal information just so a retailer can sell to them harder. So, my recommendation to business leaders is, think hard about what you’re offering vs. what you’re asking for. If you’re asking for a lot, you better be delivering a lot of perceived value on the part of the consumer. That can come from saving time (convenience) or from saving money.”  

Nikki Baird

Vice President of Retail Innovation, Aptos



“Companies MUST assure customers that their data is secure and will not be shared with unscrupulous actors or is vulnerable to breaches. Convenience is only meaningful if customer data is protected. Once trust is lost it may be impossible to regain, especially if the effects of a breach are large.

Companies must define and protect transactions around data privacy and security. Privacy and security will become core competencies across the value chain. Customers will understand where their data lives and who has access to it, and companies will “co-accept” their responsibilities to manage and protect that data. The number of opt-ins will increase dramatically, as companies seek to engage their customers in decisions about their data and what they regard as acceptable risks. Companies will protect themselves as much as they try to protect customer data. This duality will be the outcome of the sophistication of digital weaponry.”

Stephen J. Andriole, PhD, is the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business Technology at Villanova University’s School of Business

“The importance could vary by consumer and situation. The same consumer may value the privacy of their electronic medical record very differently than that of a credit card, or preference between favorite color (which may be evident on their Instagram feed.) The contemporary marketer engages in deep ethnographic study to understand such preferences, based on the unique characteristics segments and customers. If that doesn’t work, they should ask.”

Marc Emmer

President, Optimize Inc.

“This is a trick question. On the one hand, the answer is, ‘They’re all equally crucial and cannot be ordered by importance.’ On the other hand, the answer is, ‘It is subjective and depends on both the product or service and the individual customer.’ Most companies tend to focus on convenience, followed by security, and then privacy. Actually, security and privacy are fairly equal—sort of two sides of the same coin from the business perspective, but organizations prioritize convenience because they believe that is what will attract and retain customers. That is true to some extent, but those customers will also quickly flee if they discover that security and privacy are being ignored.”

Tony Bradley

Editor-in-Chief, TechSpective

“I’m not sure there’s a simple way to prioritize them as much as they are legs of the same stool. Again, to me it comes back to ensuring user control; all three factor into whether that ultimately exists. That’s what’s so key about privacy questions, especially in the current climate: it’s less about companies having access to information than it is a response to a lack of accountability and control and a loss of trust that our information will be handled well. So, the paradigm we’re after needs to put the user in the driver’s seat, not the company. And the way to achieve that is to take our focus off monetizing that data. Trust is going to be a key word going forward, more than security, more than privacy, more than convenience. Trust. That and transparency. “

Eric Yaverbaum

President, Ericho Communications

“No term other than “paradigm shift” adequately describes the place we find ourselves in regard to technology, convenience, safety and privacy. While technological advancements have ushered in many positive developments, most companies have not adapted fast enough. For many other companies, the disconnect between the customer/company understanding of these concepts has led to at least one of the following consequences: eroded customer loyalty; bad press; lawsuits; lost revenue; lost jobs; and in some cases, bankruptcy.

This is a critical period for companies and customers, as well as legislators, activist groups and even journalists, to get on the same page.

To get there, companies must lead the revolution by doing the following:

  1. Understand the difference between privacy and security, and clearly articulate it to customers.
  2. Get real about the enormous trust customers put in companies for the sake of convenience.
  3. Go transparent with usage of any reasonably new technology that people are concerned about.
  4. Admit that most existing privacy policies are too dense and complicated for the average consumer, and resolve to do something about it.
  5. Get educated about just how intrusive some technologies are and aren’t.
  6. Realize that privacy activist groups don’t necessarily represent the way most people feel about privacy or technologies of convenience.
  7. Embrace a new set of rules that will lead to happier customers, employees and companies.
  8. Understand that the “bumps” that most new technology experiences are not signs of failure, but rather can and do get resolved when that technology meets the value/benefit test.”

Peter Trepp

CEO, FaceFirst and author of The New Rules of Consumer Privacy