For most of human history, privacy looked like a closed door or a shut drawer. But the digital age has changed that. Think of the time during your childhood or teenage years when privacy simply meant being in your room and not being bothered, or having a diary and knowing nobody would read it. 

Technology has completely transformed that landscape. Privacy means much more to customers now in terms of knowing that their personal information is protected, knowing exactly where their information is going, how it's being used, and what choices they have over that information. It involves transparency and control. Because customers have a lot of choices when it comes to what products they want in their homes, privacy literally has to be at the foundation of the product and be built into it from day one. 

Unfortunately, the biggest misconception about privacy is that companies care about it only because they have to, but that’s false. Take Amazon for instance, which builds intuitive privacy features and educates customers about how to use them. Amazon designs Alexa and Echo devices with multiple layers of privacy and security—from built-in protections to controls and features that customers can see, hear, and touch. The blue light that shows when Alexa is listening to a request, customizable privacy zones that allow Ring customers to block out “off-limit” areas and respect their neighbors’ privacy, and privacy settings to control devices, show how deeply embedded security is. 

However, all these investments are useless if a customer doesn’t feel confident or safe about sharing their data. The first step to overcome this is to make privacy features really easy to use and to understand, followed by educating and empowering the customer. Many brands forget that staying close to the customer is critical to be able to relate to that customer experience and build new devices and services with privacy at their core. That includes data stewardship.

Building more inclusive technology includes collecting requests from a diverse range of customers to understand everyone better, and that includes people with all kinds of speech patterns, accents, and dialects. It’s important to remember that data fosters inclusion. But brands must demonstrate that they are great stewards of their customer data. There are a lot of mechanisms in place designed with the goal of keeping data secure and ensuring that it is used responsibly and only in ways that ultimately benefit the customer.

For example, Amazon uses data only to provide services and improve the customer experience, to create these delightful things that customers love. With Alexa, those experiences might include personalized music or TV recommendations or Hunches that might help people in their homes. Personalizing the customer experience, including voice recordings help Alexa learn voice and preferences so that customer interactions are more accurate and convenient. 

Of course, there is no trade-off between innovation and customer privacy. Privacy itself can be a wellspring for innovation when it’s built into the product. It becomes a flywheel for innovation. By thinking about privacy, brands are building trust with the customer. When they build trust with the customer, people are much more likely to engage with their product. That in turn gives brands the ability to continue innovating.

Building that customer trust includes putting in the resources and the time to really build an amazing experience for customers. We’ve been able to see the beauty of this at play with our customers at Amazon. An incredible story is about a customer whose wife had had a stroke at home and was able to use the Alexa communication feature to alert her husband that she needed help. Had they not gotten that help just in time, that outcome would have been really different for that family.

Hearing these stories and knowing that technology has the power to directly improve customers’ lives, can be incredibly rewarding. A human-centric approach to data that uses real experiences, and a human point of view can create enormous impact. However, trust is essential between those that extract and collect data, those who manage and interpret it, and those who use it. This trust – like any other kind of relationship – must be upheld and nurtured through transparency, accountability, and integrity.

Article By : Leila Rouhi, VP of Trust & Trust for Devices, Amazon