Online Trust: An Essential Intangible Asset!

Trust is an intangible…however, through these lens, trust does not materialize, nor should it be summarily granted in gradations, i.e., trustworthy, generally trustworthy, occasionally trustworthy, trustworthy, but verify, or wholly untrustworthy, etc.

This perspective of trust I am proposing here…leaves open the question of whether a (any) business purposefully wishes – sets out to make trust and/or seek to have their trust (which perhaps they have achieved) translated by their customers, clients, consumers, supply-value chain as an intangible asset which is sustainable and can be legitimately exploited to enhance (business) value, revenues, competitive advantages, and/or reputation, etc.

Businesses which endeavor to do so...does warrant achieving a presumably higher level of operational familiarity with this intangible asset and the ever widening array of risks which can – should they materialize, adversely exacerbate the stability, fragility, and sustainability of factors contributing to a business’s trust, i.e., depth, breadth, strength, and resilience.

Pew – Elon University study on internet (online) trust…an August 2017 study – survey released by Pew Research Center and Elon University titled ‘The Fate of Online Trust In the Coming Decade’

Among other things, the study revealed…I suspect to the surprise of few, that internet users generally maintain a high level of trust in the internet. The study also suggested this user trust will not likely diminish in the coming decade, which, for me, was somewhat surprising.  Of course, that’s  good for e-commerce as well as other internet grounded activities.


The findings do acknowledge the (obvious) online presence…of ideologically dramatized and agenda driven websites, information, and utterances on various social media platforms which travel at keystroke speed relative to their presumed appeal. In-spite-of-that, user reliance on – trust in online sources, the study’s findings are clear; they are stable and rising, ala e-commerce is sustainable for the near term.

However, the Pew – Elon study did find...internet users, no surprise here, have legitimate doubts-concerns about progress being made regarding their (personal) privacy and security, i.e., their data-information.  While somewhat contradictory to the findings as a whole, this aspect does not bode particularly well for e-commerce in general, especially as it currently exists.

Some respondents to the survey suggested…sustaining this current trend, insofar as sustaining internet user trust will obviously, and perhaps inevitability, warrant technical and/or regulatory intervention. The objectives for such intervention will, in all likelihood, be aimed at allaying – mitigating users’ –  business’s concerns regarding security and privacy regarding personal (online) communications and e-commerce transactions.

An especially relevant finding of this study, for me, has to do with the…reality that internet users are becoming (more, increasingly) accustom to risk – uncertainty associated with their internet use.  I suspect one is obliged to consider that finding in the context of the ever rising dependency on the internet, i.e., convenience, speed, ease of use, and having no immediate-viable alternatives which variously placate perceptions-realities of risk and uncertainty.

Further analysis of the Pew – Elon survey findings do…project the present trend of user trust in internet use will likely undergo – experience some adjustments in the not-to-distant future, presumably a reflection of future diminution of trust in internet use, i.e., privacy, security, etc.

To be sure, the internet was not initially designed…with safeguards in mind nor how ubiquitously essential it would become. Of course, internet safeguards are now presumptively essential insofar as mitigating trust challenges and are all-but-certain to expand in sophistication and gravity. As Vinton Cerf, one of several, credited with creating internet protocols, put it rather worriedly, “we didn’t focus on how you could wreck this system intentionally.”

The presence of the Internet and various social media-communication platforms has…enabled a seemingly endless variety of (personal, professional, special interest) relationships and communities to emerge and become variously embedded in the larger construct of social norms. Here, human trust has manifested, variously assumed, and negotiated with users one may collectively – collaboratively interact globally…

  • in a collection of interspersed and inter-connected domains in which information exists with uncertain, if not questionable provenance used by ‘legacy free’ players employing a proliferation of strategies to attract – capture user attention, not-infrequently, for nefarious purposes.

NOTE…this post has been adapted by Michael D. Moberly from the fine work of Lee Rainie and Janna Jackson of the Pew Research Center and Elon University findings regarding their collaborative research titled ‘The Fate of Online Trust In the Next Decade.)

Michael D. Moberly January 11, 2019 [email protected]  The Business Intangible Asset Blog where one’s attention span, intangible assets, and solutions converge’.

Readers are invited to explore other blog posts, papers, video interviews, and books I have published at


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