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Data Privacy Day conversation reveals need for digital trust


Editors note: The image above is a screengrab of the word cloud generated by attendees of the Data Privacy Day conversation

Noun. A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction

That was the most popular response when over 140 people were asked “What comes to mind when you hear ‘digital trust?’” at UTO’s Data Privacy Day on January 28. And while not exactly the answer one may expect, taking these kinds of temperature checks from the audience helps to inform how to best approach the topic. 

Part of the challenge today is the phrase “digital trust” lacks a unified meaning, as ASU's new Chief Information Security and Digital Trust Officer Donna Kidwell pointed out. Kidwell hosted the conversation on the concept of digital trust, along with guests and audience participation.

Check out the conversation from ASU’s Data Privacy Day  to learn more. 

Digital trust is fittingly paired with information security in Kidwell’s role as CISDTO -- the first of its kind in higher education and one of few in the professional world at all, but it’s not entirely relegated to the traditional world of infosecurity. It goes broader to include the general confidence community members feel in a digital world. 

If “digital” and “trust” are together an oxymoron, we know that confidence is lacking. Breakout conversations during the event revealed it wasn’t about ASU particularly; it was often about a general mistrust of technology, exacerbated by big headlines involving breaches of personal information at numerous companies and organizations. We can point to the SolarWinds hack, one of the largest security breaches on record, that occurred no more than two months ago.

Kidwell and guest Diana Bowman, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Associate Dean of International Engagement, used the ASU Health Check process as an example of the tricky nature of digital trust. “The more data we collect, the better stewards we can be through extraordinary circumstances like this,” Kidwell said. “But I can appreciate that it can be kind of unsettling.”

ASU CISDTO Donna Kidwell and Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Associate Dean of International Engagement Diana Bowman share how digital trust impacts the ASU campus


While the discussion surfaced many other topics, it was clear that a lot of work remains to be done in building digital trust. ASU is leading the way with a template that will, hopefully, be transplanted into numerous other interactions. One such example of work in this vein is the Trusted Learner Network (TLN), which is a major focus of Kidwell’s work and passion.

The Data Privacy Day conversation is a good start to bring down the prominence of “oxymoron” in relation to digital trust, and elevating words like “transparency,” “privacy” and “integrity” to be synonymous with the phrase.

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