Principles of trust for technology products

By Adrian Blakey


At Dazzle, we want users to be able to trust our personal data products, and we want to provide evidence that their trust is warranted.

Traditionally, vendors invest significantly to build confidence in their brand. They closely guard their public-facing persona to conjure up an impression in the minds of their consumers of “trust” in the brand and, by extension, the vendor. This is done by clever manipulation of the media, advertising, lobbying, third party endorsement etc. Apple Inc. are a prime example. They use this as a huge differentiator from their competitors which allows them to charge a premium for their products.

Often though, this persona is a false representation of reality which risks easily becoming undone either by bad actors, or simply by accident. When it does, it’s costly and often provokes overreaction and retroactive governmental legislation that itself is costly, disruptive, and indiscriminate or misdirected.

Enterprises traditionally try to head all this off by employing compliance teams, internal inspectors, legal teams, internal audits, strict processes and policing, and human resource policies and procedures. All of which bogs down innovation and creativity, kills productivity, adds huge cost and detracts from inter-organizational trust.

All due to “trust” not being built into the product and fabric of how the enterprise was founded, and operated.

Dazzle is the opposite. We seek to build a trustworthy product from the outset founded on first principles to create a culture of trust. By doing so this simplifies the organization, adds unique, standout value to the product and creates an authentic, powerful customer/vendor experience and is the brand.

Before describing how this will be done, it’s important to explore some facets of trust and in the context of a software system.


Trust is a very human feeling, our language uses emotional terms to describe it “we know it when we feel it” - although our feelings are often wrong and very easily corrupted (the famous Bush/Putin meeting for example…).

Most of us are programmed to initiate a relationship of any form by being circumspect or wary of the other party as a means of self-preservation – unless our programming is bad or the other party is skilled at getting past this initial hesitancy.

Trust is built up by a back and forth exchange of information about the other party that each party may reasonably verify. The initial exchange might be of public information – that’s easily discovered and common knowledge. Depending on the value or expected duration of the relationship the exchange is either short and informal (e.g., swap business cards) or long and formal (e.g., a notarized signed contract). Once it’s established it can be bid up into successively more trustworthy levels, to engage in more meaningful transactions; until it’s (easily) undone …

The amount of information that’s passed back and forth at each stage of leveraging the relationship into existence is important. For example, in personal relationships we are well attuned to giving up only the barest amount of information early in a relationship to not seem too eager/needy/“weird”. But eventually all and every relevant detail has to be exchanged to build deep trust.

Once a relationship is established it is maintained by keeping confidential aspects of not only the relationship but also the parties to it, private. If information leaks either accidentally or on purpose by one of the parties, the relationship loses trust. Trust is based on privacy.

The same applies to vendor relationships - a purchaser wants to successively discover a vendor’s salient (to them) “secret self” to justify purchase and (later) recommendation. Sometimes this is formalized in an Request For Information/Request For Proposal (RFI/RFP) process (that I have never really seen work, cause vendors routinely lie and there is no recourse in doing so :-))

Better though if a vendor could present provable, real data to the customer at successively refined levels of abstraction appropriate to the stage of the relationship building process to create trust.

The data needs to describe the organization from three aspects to address all concerns, namely:

  • People.
  • Process.
  • Technology.

This will be subject of a separate post.