Denmark has launched the first ever labelling program for IT-security and responsible use of data. The seal’s purpose is to create digital trust for customers and consumers in addition to making digital accountability a high priority in companies.
Is this the new revolutionised norm for IT-security and data protection? Or is it simply a new commercial branding tool for companies to differentiate themselves on, and as a result a new strategy to protect the Danish IT and digital sector?
What is the D-seal?
The D-seal (D-mærket) launched on the 22nd of September 2021 as a key part of the Danish National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Director Mikael Jensen and his team have big visions for the D-seal.
The D-seal aims to change the uncertainty and unease citizens may feel when it comes to IT and data protection. The question remains, how much confidence and trust one should put into the digital services we use every day. The D-seal will enable companies to communicate their IT-security and ethics standards and when it comes to data protection, simply and effectively.
The overall objectives with the launch of the new data ethics label are:
A stronger digitalized society
Creating business value
Creating digital trust for the consumer
A company is able to apply for the D-seal through a six-step process. A criteria is allocated based on the type and size of the business, and their use of data and IT. The company must fulfil the criteria in order to qualify for the D-seal. The criteria concerns IT-security, privacy and data ethics.
Once the D-seal has been assigned a company must pay an annual fee. The smallest companies will pay DKK 2,800, while the biggest will have to pay a sum of DKK 52,350 kr. or more. The D-seal will be valid for one year. After the seal has expired, the company must re-apply.
The social impact
Will the D-seal make a real impact in the way companies protect and handle our personal data? Will it make a real change in consumer patterns? Or will the intent of the seal go lost in the competitive advantages? These questions can only be answered, when the D-seal has been in effect for a while, but they should be asked.
Firstly, the seal is a potential catalyst for a future where consumers have the power to recognize and choose companies and services based on their data security and digital responsibility. It also has the potential to increase the level of trust consumers have for companies that handle their data. Hence, create a society of digital trust, that we have not yet experienced.
On the other hand, the D-seal may get lost in an already digital world, where many of the younger generations are not as concerned about data security as some may believe. This is depicted in the Generation Z data security paradox. Will the average consumer pick a product or service over another based on a data ethics label? Some citizens blindly trust the digital products they use and may not be affected by the launch of the D-seal. Meanwhile, an increasing number of citizens, especially the younger generation, demand much more from companies than before. The increasing trend of consumers demanding more from companies could expand to not only cover sustainability and corporate social responsibility, but also digital accountability. Time will tell, if and who, the D-seal will impact most.
From the perspective of companies, the spread of the D-seal gives companies an incentive to handle data safely and responsibly. The D-seal is partly designed for the purpose of businesses gaining a competitive advantage when having such a label. Companies will be able to commercialise the D-seal, by attracting customers who value digital responsibility Furthermore, they may have better chances of creating new meaningful partnerships by being branded and certified as digitally accountable.
On an international level, this process could make Denmark a frontrunner in terms of digital ethics in data processes. Malene Stidsen, programme chief at Danish Industry Foundation’s cyber programme, believes that the D-seal will grant international competitive advantages that will benefit Danish companies. She believes that Denmark, as a highly digital country, will be able to brand and pride themselves on the D-seal. If the D-seal becomes the norm, it will create an additional barrier for outsiders who want to provide IT-services in Denmark.
A new future?
No one knows, what the future holds. However, digitalization prevails and continues to spread, develop and change. The creation of the D-seal process and certification may have a real impact in future methods of protecting citizen’s data. It provides a better foundation for the average citizen to recognize and comprehend the importance of digital accountability and transparency. If effective, it could plant the idea that corporate social responsibility and digital accountability are intertwined.
The D-seal was just recently launched and will most likely have many challenges to come. The seal is currently only financed until the end of 2022. Even if the D-seal becomes purely a commercial tool and a way to protect national digital and IT industries. It could, however, set common national standards for data handling. In the future, we will get more insight into the impact of the D-seal and how this new framework, develops and changes.