Cisco: The Age of Privacy Has Arrived, Helped by COVID-19

Mar 31, 2021 | Privacy & Security

Cisco has released its Data Privacy Benchmark Study 2021 and it’s got some revealing insights for enterprise. 

Unsurprisingly, this year’s study is framed around COVID-19 and reveals the pandemic has significantly elevated the importance of privacy as a business priority.  

Cisco says: “The reaffirmation of privacy’s value even during the pandemic positions it as a priority for years to come. Privacy is no longer an afterthought; it is core to how we work and interact with each other. The Age of Privacy has arrived.” We wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments.  

Cisco’s Data Privacy Benchmark 2021 is a significant study. It’s an annual survey which, for this 2021 installment, anonymously surveyed more than 4,700 security professionals from 25 geographies in mid-2020. Respondents represented all major industries and organization size. It also drew on data from Cisco’s 2020 Consumer Privacy Survey, which was completed in mid-2020 by 2,600 adults in 12 countries.*  

The four key messages that flow from Cisco’s Data Privacy Benchmark 2021 are important for enterprise:  

Privacy is helping organizations to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. 

Cisco reports 93 percent of organizations used their privacy team to help navigate and manage their pandemic response in 2020, particularly the rapid shift to remote work and balancing individual rights and public safety. Private and secure remote work access and systems and policies for when and how to share employees’ personal information and to limit access to and use of that data are urgent priorities in the pandemic.  

Investment in privacy has increased and ROI is positive. 


As you’d expect in a pandemic, the study shows privacy budgets across all organization sizes roughly doubled in 2020. The average privacy spend is now USD 2.4 million. While ROI on this spend was slightly down compared with2019, it tracked similarly to 2020 and remained solid. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported benefits at least two times their investments in areas such as mitigating losses from data breaches, spurring innovation, achieving operational efficiency, and building trust with customers.  

Tighter privacy laws are welcomed and positively regarded. 

We recently told you about the new “privacy actives”, a term Cisco coined following its 2019 Consumer Privacy Survey. ‘Privacy actives’ are highly motivated privacy-aware individuals who care about privacy, are willing to act to protect theirs, and are proactive about it. The latest Cisco data shows organizations are recognizing and responding to this new influential demographic and accept that consumers won’t buy their products and services if they perceive a risk to their personal information from the company’s data practices and policies. 

As such, the steady tightening of privacy laws globally, which promote greater transparency, fairness and accountability, are being welcomed and positively regarded by both enterprise and consumers. Cisco reports that 79 percent of organizations indicated privacy regulations are having a positive impact (and only a 5 percent negative impact).   

Read more about how privacy regulations are picking up pace at the state level in the US and around the world.  

Privacy is becoming even more critical to the bottom line. 

Cisco has several key findings in this area:  

  • 90 percent of respondents agreed that external privacy certifications, such as ISO 27701, APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules, and EU Binding Corporate Rules, are an important buying factor when choosing a product or vendor. 
  • Organizations with more mature privacy practices are enjoying greater business benefits than average and are in a stronger position to handle new and evolving privacy regulations.  
  • More security professionals say data privacy is now a core requirement of their role, and 93 percent of organizations are reporting privacy metrics such as privacy program audit findings, privacy impact assessments, and data breaches to their board. 

All these findings point to the fact the pandemic has strengthened the commitment to privacy globally. As the report summarizes: “Privacy budgets have increased over the last year, organizations have more resources focused on privacy, and privacy investments going above and beyond the law are translating into real business value. Privacy legislation and external certifications are providing assurance in a business environment where it’s hard to know whom to trust. Consumers are exercising their privacy rights and demanding enforcement of existing privacy protections.” 

Indeed, Cisco could not be plainer in its assessment of privacy’s importance to business as we move further into 2021: “Organizations that get privacy right improve trust with their customers, operational efficiency, and both top-line and bottom-line results.” 

If you’d like to explore how Anonyome Labs can help your company to rapidly produce branded data privacy and cybersecurity solutions, check out Sudo Platform, our complete business privacy toolkit, and MySudo, our exemplar consumer privacy app. 

* The 2020 Consumer Privacy Survey, which we’ll also report on soon, surveyed participants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, The Netherlands, UK, US, and Vietnam. 

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