In this high-tech world driven by technology, change and disruption, we should never forget the human component. Ultimately, the world is ruled by relationships that can be both good and bad.

Trust has always been important, but in a connected social world, its value is elevated. Consider trust as the new currency; it is earned through demonstrations of honesty, integrity and delivering on promises. Breaking this trust will cause businesses to lose profitability. Meanwhile, governments will lose the votes of those who feel betrayed.

For as long as we can remember, we have received junk mail, and over the years it has evolved into spam email. Much of this marketing spam is in reality failed communication – valuable mail that went to the wrong guy. I do not want to receive junk mail. But I do want to receive relevant and useful communication.

Without the right context, the marketing messages are meaningless. These marketers simply didn’t know anything about me. To someone who has no interest in sailing or gets sick on a boat, a mailshot for a sailboat is immediately deemed as junk. However, technology now allows companies to build a profile based on past purchases, social interaction and search history to ensure that we only receive relevant content. Is this such a bad thing?

It’s amazing how much big businesses already know about us. Our mortgages and insurance policies show what neighborhoods we live in and what cars we drive. The smartphones in our pockets reveal much more about our routines than many of us realize. Our phone GPS can determine if we are walking, driving or even flying and update the likes of Google, Apple or Facebook.

Who we trust with this wealth of personal information is crucial moving forward. The creation of new international laws to protect privacy is already on the rise. Blind trust or soft assumptions around social networks such as Facebook or even Twitter is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.

Not thinking about the consequences of what we do online is also a huge mistake. Every website or social network we visit leaves a digital footprint. The absence of a big delete button means that we need to take personal responsibility for the information we broadcast about ourselves to the world.

On the flipside, if users notice that Facebook reset their privacy settings after an update, it will ultimately lead to a lack of trust and engagement from large numbers of its users.

Tesla collects one million miles of self-driving data every 10 hours. If this data is used to lessen accidents to make myself and others safer, then I’m happy for them to analyze my personal data. However, if this data were ever sold to companies that I do not trust, then I have a problem. This is something organizations that are handling enormous volumes of data need to start thinking very seriously about.

We are starting to make real progress in unlocking the power hidden in our data in real time through machine learning. The next step will involve connecting people to brands to ensure that each unique individual sees a customized, personally relevant message.

The preferences and interests of customers hold the key to providing a unique personalized experience. Any organization that can map data from devices, browsers and cookies, along with past purchases, will also obtain a significant advantage over its competition as long as it can use that data without losing trust.

There are already solutions available that allow businesses to personalize emails up until the exact time the email is opened to ensure it is relevant to the person reading it. Any business that continues sending generic promotions of little relevance or interest will soon be seen as extremely out of touch and confined to the spam folder.

These Hard Trends are happening right now. Consumers have higher expectations and demands than ever before. Technology has enabled them to shop around for the best deal with minimal effort. What is your business doing to maintain trust as you meet these demands?

With great power comes great responsibility. How data is used to provide a personalized service without breaking a user’s privacy or trust involves walking a very fine line. Those that obtain the right balance of security and privacy of customer data are likely to leapfrog businesses that neglect these essential responsibilities.

It is time to openly debate the need for an international standard regulating how our personal information and data is used. Trust is one area that leaders need to take seriously before the integrity of their companies is questioned in the public arena.