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Over a quarter of companies restrict Gen AI use to address data security risks

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The Cisco 2024 Data Privacy Benchmark Study reveals that most organisations are limiting the use of Generative AI (GenAI) over data privacy and security issues.

Cisco has released its global 2024 Data Privacy Benchmark Study, an annual  review of key privacy issues and their impact on business. 

The findings highlight the growing privacy concerns  with GenAI, trust challenges facing organisations over their use of AI, and the attractive returns from privacy  investment. Drawing on responses from 2,600 privacy and security professionals across 12 geographies around  the world, the seventh edition of the Benchmark shows that privacy is much more than a regulatory compliance  matter.  

“Organisations see GenAI as a fundamentally different technology with novel challenges to consider,” said Dev  Stahlkopf, Cisco Chief Legal Officer. “More than 90% of respondents believe AI requires new techniques to  manage data and risk. This is where thoughtful governance comes into play. Preserving customer trust depends  on it.”

Among the top concerns, businesses cited the threats to an organisation’s legal and Intellectual Property rights  (69%), and the risk of disclosure of information to the public or competitors (68%).  

Most organisations are aware of these risks and are putting in place controls to limit exposure: 63% have  established limitations on what data can be entered, 61% have limits on which GenAI tools can be used by  employees, and 27% said their organisation had banned GenAI applications altogether for the time being. Nonetheless, many individuals have entered information that could be problematic, including employee  information (45%) or non-public information about the company (48%). 

Slow Progress on AI and Transparency 

Consumers are concerned about AI use involving their data today, and yet 91% of organisations recognise they need to do more to reassure their customers that their data was being used only for intended and legitimate  purposes in AI. This is similar to last year’s levels, suggesting that not much progress has been achieved.  

Organisations’ priorities to build consumer trust differ from those of individuals. Consumers identified their top  priorities as getting clear information on exactly how their data is being used, and not having their data sold for  marketing purposes. When asked the same question, businesses identified their top priorities as complying with  privacy laws (25%) and avoiding data breaches (23%). It suggests additional attention on transparency would be  helpful — especially with AI applications where it may be difficult to understand how the algorithms make their  decisions.  

Privacy and Trust: the Role of External Certifications and Laws  

Organisations recognise the need to reassure their customers about how their data is being used, and 98% said  that external privacy certifications are an important factor in their buying decisions. This is the highest we’ve  seen over the years.  

“94% of respondents said their customers would not buy from them if they did not adequately protect data,”  explains Harvey Jang, Cisco Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer. “They are looking for hard evidence the  organisation can be trusted. Privacy has become inextricably tied to customer trust and loyalty. This is even more  true in the era of AI, where investing in privacy better positions organisations to leverage AI ethically and  responsibly.”  

Despite the costs and requirements privacy laws may impose on organisations, 80% of respondents said privacy  laws have had a positive impact on them, and only 6% said the impact has been negative. Strong privacy  regulation boosts consumer confidence and trust in the organisations they choose to share their data with.  

Further, many governments and organisations are putting in place data localisation requirements to keep certain  data within country or region. Whilst most businesses (91%) believe that their data would be inherently safer if  stored within their country or region, 86% also said that a global provider, operating at scale, can better protect  their data compared to a local provider.  

Privacy: a Valuable Investment  

Over the past five years, privacy spending has more than doubled, benefits have trended up, and returns have  remained strong. This year, 95% indicated that privacy’s benefits exceed its costs, and the average organisation reports getting privacy benefits of 1.6 times their spending. Further, 80% indicated getting significant “Loyalty 

and Trust” benefits from their privacy investments, and this is even higher (92%) for the most privacy-mature  organisations.  

In 2023, largest organisations (10,000+ employees) increased their privacy spending by seven to eight percent  since last year. However, smaller organisations saw lower investment, for example, businesses with 50-249  employees, decreased their privacy investment by a fourth on average. 

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