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Customer Trust Is Everything — Here’s How to Protect It with Digital Sovereignty

digital sovereignty is protected by each company's daily choices
Upholding digital sovereignty is a crucial tenet to customer trust. [Adobe Stock | Studio Science]

Bridge the AI trust gap by getting digital sovereignty right.

Customers want to be in control of their data. And they expect companies to respect their privacy, be transparent about how companies collect and use data, and provide the tools they need to manage their data.

Digital sovereignty is how this happens. As AI adoption grows, so does the imperative for companies to prioritize digital sovereignty. Simply put: Digital sovereignty is the right to control your own data. It’s the degree to which customers are independent, or “sovereign,” in their choices for how to share data — while still being protected by the company.

At Salesforce, digital sovereignty has been a core principle since day one. We support customers owning and controlling their data, and we ensure it stays that way by shielding them with security safeguards. We believe in equipping companies with an airtight digital infrastructure, especially as the AI trust gap grows among consumers. 

And with 87% of IT and analytics leaders prioritizing data management these days, it’s important to define digital sovereignty best practices so you earn and maintain your customers’ trust. 

Table of contents

  1. What is digital sovereignty?
  2. Why is digital sovereignty important?
  3. Universal safeguards for your digital sovereignty strategy
  4. Top four challenges with getting digital sovereignty right
  5. Digital sovereignty best practices for your business tech stack 
  6. Protecting your customers’ data in a sovereign future

What is digital sovereignty?

Digital sovereignty when you have control over your data and infrastructure – this includes providing the support for your customers to have control over their data, deciding how it’s collected, stored, processed, and shared. 

But the idea of digital sovereignty isn’t binary — it isn’t something you either have or don’t have. Instead, it’s more like a spectrum. It evolves over time and needs to be constantly refined to adapt to changes in the digital world.

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Why is digital sovereignty important?

For companies, upholding digital sovereignty is more than just ensuring data transparency and security. It’s also about mitigating risks, complying with regulations in the face of potential breaches, and most importantly, building customer trust. 

The goal is to give customers the confidence that their data is in safe hands — the gold standard of responsible data management.

And in an AI-driven world, where data practices are under intense scrutiny, prioritizing digital sovereignty sets companies apart as guardians of customer trust. 

Trust, after all, is the currency of success.

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How can you ensure trust while scaling AI?

Discover six strategies to build a trusted foundation for AI that is safe, reliable, and ethical.

Universal safeguards for your digital sovereignty strategy

Companies that prioritize digital sovereignty embed three key measures into their products from the outset: contractual, technical, and organizational. 

Let’s break down each measure and show how it helps companies keep pace with global standards:

Illustration showing 3 coworkers working together on a yellow platform, looking at screens and planning a digital sovereignty strategy
Companies should consider contractual, technical, and organizational measures when building out their digital sovereignty strategy.

Contractual agreements that limit data exposure

These include various agreements such as data-processing agreements tailored to address customer-specific needs. 

We see this in protections such as the UK Binding Corporate Rules and the EU Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs), where companies must be approved to transfer personal data outside the EU. The BCRs are the benchmark for cross-border data transfer, reflecting the highest data protection standards in the world.

Technical safeguards that protect data

These measures cover a broad scope of controls to govern and protect the data customers entrust to an organization, like offering external key management capabilities that build encryption and resilience. 

Another way to bring technical measures to AI is with an inbuilt trust layer that masks sensitive data, encrypts data using transport-layer security, and employs zero-data retention policies. These measures help ensure that large language models do not store sensitive information from prompts and outputs after processing. 

Organizational protocols that prioritize security

How data is organized affects how secure it is throughout its lifecycle. Proper measures include third-party audits, compliance certifications, access controls, incident response protocols, and ethical guidelines.

Another way this appears is through unique offerings like Hyperforce Operating Zones, which provide protections regarding customer data transfers, including additional safeguards for transfers outside the EU in the EU Operating Zone.

These three measures are designed so organizations can be confident in embracing digital sovereignty best practices from the start.

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Top four challenges with getting digital sovereignty right 

Navigating digital sovereignty can pose challenges for many organizations, but there are answers for every top concern. And for good measure, organizations should remain flexible and adjust their approaches as the data and security landscape evolves.

  1. Complexity of regulations

Compliance requirements vary by geography, so it’s important for companies operating in multiple jurisdictions to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations. Data can flow freely across borders, but companies must carefully coordinate and understand legal frameworks to ensure they’re compliant.

  1. New technologies

Emerging technologies, such as generative AI, introduce new complexities and risks that can make it difficult to maintain digital sovereignty. Organizations need to stay ahead and prioritize data privacy and ownership in these new contexts.

  1. Changing customer expectations

As consumers become more aware of data privacy and security, organizations are facing pressure to meet higher standards for protecting their personal information. Companies that fail to meet these expectations risk losing customer trust.

  1. Data security threats

Data breaches, malware attacks, and other cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, so organizations must keep strengthening their security posture. For small to midsize organizations, it could be a challenge to implement and upkeep their data protection measures.

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See how your customers respond to generative AI

Learn what 14,300 consumers and business buyers worldwide have to say about the future of customer engagement in our State of the Connected Customer Report.

Digital sovereignty best practices for your business tech stack

The diverse business, technical, and operational requirements of global customers mean that digital sovereignty can have a massive impact on your business.

Localize data for compliance and safe transfers

Localizing your data means ensuring that it’s stored and processed in compliance with local regulations and laws. You’ll need to consider additional protections, such as where and how data is transferred, to properly store data. An addendum also helps provide a legal framework for these kinds of transfers.

Consider initiatives that give customers more options for storing their data in different countries. And with $7.3 trillion in economic relationships facilitated by data flows between the EU and US, companies can also show their commitment to protecting data by becoming certified under new data privacy frameworks, such as the EU-US Data Privacy Framework.

Enhance data protection through privacy, security, and access control

When it comes to data protection, privacy, security, and encryption are key. This is especially true for the ability to encrypt data in transit with zero-trust architecture, and so is the ability to bring your own encryption keys. These measures help you build greater protection against things like extraterritorial requests for data. People should only have access to the data they need, and no more.

Security should also be built into every layer, including infrastructure elements such as replication, backup, disaster recovery planning, and network services that provide threat detection.

Strengthen data ownership with enhanced control and compliance

Digital sovereignty means owning your data, including the ability to delete (and reinstate) data if needed. It also gives you the freedom to use it across different coding languages and APIs. This lets companies follow regulations like the GDPR, allowing for organizational- and individual-level data removal.

With privacy consent mechanisms, customers can control how their data is used and tracked. Data management is complex, but the right tools and policies can help organizations navigate digital sovereignty successfully.

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Protecting your customers’ data in a sovereign future

As you look ahead, it’s important to stay true to your company values and deliver ethical, secure, privacy-first, and inclusive design solutions. Ultimately, digital sovereignty — characterized by trustworthy data exchanges and customers’ ability to govern their own data — will determine which businesses thrive in a competitive digital landscape.

And this commitment to digital sovereignty isn’t just a matter of meeting regulatory requirements: It’s about prioritizing solutions where customers can use your technology securely and confidently.

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