Who Can You Trust with Your IoT Data?

No single entity can install enough IoT devices, systems, and applications to cover everything needed. As a result, entities must collaborate in two areas. The first area is interoperability. You would have never been able to enjoy Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and many other technologies if equipment, connectivity, and service providers would not have put the effort to establish interoperability among their products and communication protocols. But it is the second area that this article focuses on: TRUST.
Can one provider trust another provider with your data?
The consequences of your data falling to the wrong hands could be devastating, and in some cases, could even pose threat to life and business viability. The level of trust you must have in another entity correlates, and must compensate for your perception of the risk that you might incur if that entity mishandles your data.
My definition of trust helps here: trust is your willingness to accept the potential negative consequences of giving control over something you have to someone (or something) else.
So, how do you know if you can trust another entity with your data?
To answer this question, I would turn to my model of trustworthiness, and the 6 components of it.
First, is the other organization competent in handling your data? Have they shown the ability to maintain data security in the past? Do they have the capability and the skills to continue and do that? If applicable, are they, their products, or their services appropriated certified to maintain data security?
Second, does the other organization share your values? What is their motivation for collaborating and interoperating with you? Are they driven by the same values and motivations as your organization, or are they driven by values that oppose those of your organization? “Marriage of convenience” could blow up in your face, when conflicting motivations rise to the surface. You must assure that your values are aligned with those you wish to trust.
Third, is the relationship symmetrical? Data that flows only in one direction is asymmetrical and may lead to breaches in trust. On the other hand, if data flow between the two organizations is symmetrical, trust will be maintained at a higher level. Keep my information safe and I’ll keep your information safe. Symmetry is a powerful motivator for trustworthiness.
Once you analyzed the other organization through these first three components, you would be able to determine whether you can (or cannot) fundamentally trust them. Don’t share information if the other organization cannot be trusted through the analysis of those three components.
The next three components come to play through the ongoing relationship with the other organization, because trust is dynamic. It increases (or declines) with every interaction and, although not as fast, in between interactions. In fact, it will decline faster with negative interactions than it would increase with positive ones. Just like people are much more inclined to post negative reviews if they had negative experiences than they are to post positive reviews if they had positive experiences. Bad is much stronger than good.
The other organization is made of people, and people are (or are not) trustworthy, which would make their entire organization trustworthy (or not). How they interact with you would allow you to determine their trustworthiness. The three components of every interaction are the positivity of the interaction, the length and frequency of interactions, and the intimacy of those interactions. The more direct, transparent, no-BS your interaction counterpart is, the more you can trust them. The more frequently you meet with them, and the longer you meet with them, the more you can tell if you can trust them or not. In a similar way, the higher the intimacy of your interactions are (more face-to-face, less email), the more you can tell if you can trust them.
While there is almost nothing you can do beyond judging the competence or values of the other organization, or the symmetry of your relationship, there is a lot you can do to determine their trustworthiness and build trust between you and them through interacting with them more frequently, for longer time, and more intimately.
Finally, remember that as much as you may need to trust them with your data, they must trust you with theirs. Building trust does not happen when you demand another person (or organization) to behave in a way that will earn your trust. It happens when you behave in a way that will earn theirs.

The author is the CEO of the Innovation Culture Institute LLC and the author of The Book of Trust and twelve other books and 300 articles. He was named one of the top 20 thought leaders on organizational culture by Thinkers 360. Find out more at www.yoramsolomon.com