On the eve of January’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Edelman released its annual Trust Barometer report measuring trust in the global institutions of business, government, NGOs, and the media. Tech executives were in for a rough awakening: usually the golden child of the report, the tech industry experienced a decline in consumer trust in 70 percent of the countries surveyed. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they thought innovation was driven by greed. Analysts made parallels to the negative experiences of the banking industry.
On January 20 at Davos, the Center co-hosted a private roundtable with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and GE General Counsel Brackett Dennison to discuss how to restore trust in the tech sector and protect the privacy and free expression rights of consumers worldwide. The roundtable brought together companies, civil society and academic experts, and public officials for a frank conversation on the causes and remedies of the trust deficit.
The trust deficit will continue to grow unless companies take proactive steps to protect privacy, free expression, and the free flow of information – both in their commercial practices and in their relations with governments. Governments need to reform laws and policies to reflect the realities of today’s technology and product individual rights. But we can’t wait for governments to fix the problem. More than ever before, companies need to take a collective and proactive approach, working with other stakeholders through initiatives like the Global Network Initiative to ensure their policies protect individual rights.