Do we Need to Revisit our Settings for Trust and Transparency?


In a post I wrote about two years ago, I observed that the concept of private and confidential was taking a beating online.

On more than one occasion, I noticed how people seem to still confuse the concept of transparency with trust.

Even as we make the case for publicness, disclosing private information shared in confidence betrays the very trust someone has placed in you. Trust takes time to build. It takes a moment to destroy.

I'm not talking about whistle blowing on scams of which unfortunately we've had our fill in the last several years. And the best years, I'm sure, are yet to come.

What I'm talking about is more the personal kind of betrayal. The kind of indiscretion that a company wouldn't expect of its agency or consultant, for example — that's why there are enforceable NDAs. Or when a colleague knowingly throws you under the bus.

Today, it's not only companies that face the privacy in the age of transparency dilemma. (The article linked here is from 2004.)

"Privacy is about self-possession, autonomy, and integrity," wrote Simson Garfinkel, "Over the next fifty years we will see new kinds of threats to privacy that don't find their roots in totalitarianism, but in capitalism, the free market, advanced technology, and the unbridled exchange of electronic information."

Sharing information that is confidential is equivalent to stealing. Often though, the person leaking information — from a company, or a relationship — may be not fully aware of the damage they are causing and its consequences.

I've heard it more than once — if you don't want to see it quoted, don't publish it. Do we need to revisit our settings on trust and transparency in private conversations as well? Should we be cautiously open, or guarded and on the lookout for skilled manipulators?

The opposite of having nothing to hide is not airing all plans in plain sight. Where is the line? Are these tenets still valid in helping us assess how to go about earning the trust we are given?

1. Understand the importance of respect — an easy example is misquoting someone for the purposes of placing yourself in a good light.

2. Go by the "golden rule" — you often know when you're doing something that is not right. It feels off. Stop and consider what you'll gain carefully. There's a reason why sayings like "making a pact with the devil" exist. You end up being owned by the very betrayal you made.

3. Take the issue up with the person or parties involved first — this is more transparent than going above or around them. Breathe deeply and face the conversation and you will breathe more easily afterward.

Whether you're in the camp of trust needing to be hard earned or it being given freely will also say a lot about the kind of person and company you are. In the age of transparency, we still have a need for responsible and helpful filters.

Is betraying someone's confidence ever justified?

Plenty is being written about transparency today, and much of it is worthwhile. But transparency is simply a tool: a process, a way of doing business. It is also a matter of self-preservation. With all this connectivity, you can be sure your "sins" will find you out.

Trust is earned. Trust is more valuable than gold. People will pay for it. And if you're working to earn it now, you're already creating equity in the next economy.


[image: Trust Me was a show on TNT]

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0 responses to “Do we Need to Revisit our Settings for Trust and Transparency?”

  1. Valeria,
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The difficulty today with my generation is the need for approval.
    College age adults are seriously damaging their reputations and setting themselves up for negative consequences in their future with the way they behave on Facebook.
    There’s so much content that we share and yet we don’t stop to think about the rest of the world’s access to this information. (I’m guilty of this as well.)
    I’ve come to realize the importance of calculating what you say before you publish it because once it’s there… generally, it’ll never go away.
    This reality has seriously forced me to think about what my priorities are, who I want to be associated with, and how I want my future children (and grandchildren, and great grand children, and so on…) to view their father.
    Theoretically, all the information we publish about ourselves is always going to be available.
    So, I thank you for being one to start waving the cation flag. This is an important message for my age group to hear.
    I’m certainly listening.

  2. We are having some trust issues here in the UK with the rash of ‘super injunctions’ in the media.
    The problem is clear. People just don’t know where to draw the line. As soon as companies and individuals realised a Tweet moves faster than a telephone call, they got spooked, and thought this meant everything was fair game.
    I envisage a day when Twitter creates a (probably paid for) service where Tweets can be vetted by companies if they contain certain keywords (the company name, product, employee names etc.).
    Why not? Cuts down on gagging orders. And everyone knows Twitter and Facebook could kill a company off.

  3. a case of peer pressure online, isn’t it? It’s actually happening with older professionals as well, showing up as passive/aggressive behavior on the front end.
    More than calculating, I recommend choosing to stay positive in a natural kind of way. Lest the popularity goes to our collective heads.
    The other challenge with being so public for GenY is that it shows up in the company meeting as well. There is little experience as to which filters to use, when.

  4. getting attention for all the wrong reasons is becoming an issue. I envision a day when Twitter is as boring as a home phone. Technology in general, too. There is a little appreciated because taken for granted thing with your proposal — free speech. We should never suggest that is not a good idea to have. Europe has had its fair share of moments in time when it was not available. Twitter and Facebook do nothing of the kind. The people who operate inside and outside companies do.

  5. Great post and comments you guys. I really enjoy getting in on these conversations.
    I couldn’t agree more with Chase’s comments on how people in our age group are damaging their image by how they portray themselves on Facebook. Guess what, its not just your friends who are seeing you do that keg stand in that skimpy bikini on spring break on MTV back in 2006, as impressive as it may have been at the time. Nothing is private anymore.
    While trust takes time to develop, I feel that transparency is the best way to start building beneficial relationships. In the case of the agency that I work for, we have been in business less than a year. With our lack of time in the market, we have been unable to build long lasting relationships of trust with clients. As a result, we try to be as transparent as possible.
    To help with this transparency, we have opened our doors to influential bloggers, potential partners, and business writers to come sit in on our client meetings/ client pitches to see how we conduct our business. This has worked heavily in our favor so far. Additionally we have a live stream of Twitter updates on our landing page from all of our agency employees meaning we need to watch what we tweet because it will always reflect on our company.
    These are just a few ideas that we have started with so far. I would love to hear some feedback from you guys as to what other initiatives we can take to help us in these areas.

  6. opening the doors to potential partners, business writers, etc. is a good move. I’d be curious to hear how it works longer term, because it is a model that could work when everyone is on the same page on why they are doing it.
    Watching what you tweet — and comment — is wise.

  7. Really enjoyed this post and the comments Valeria—thank you. There are very fine lines to be drawn here, and I think it is so helpful that you stress the kind of relationship trust and transparency have. The important things are exactly your take away messages—how to judge situations with a kind of consistent method. In a way, it’s using a personal protocol to determine when you might be making the wrong thing public. With the frenetic energy that social media lends to us, it’s very helpful to have some of these basic protocols in place for ourselves to help us see each situation calmly and clearly.

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