What is Trust and Safety?

The fuel powering interactions in our digital economy.


Trust and safety are a contextually dependent set of values and practices that increase participation in and engagement with a digital ecosystem by reducing the risk of harm, fraud, or other criminal behavior toward an individual or organization’s self or reputation. If harm is inflicted or fraud does occur, proper recourse mechanisms are in place to re-establish a strong sense of trust and safety.

The Role of Relationships in Trust & Safety

One of the defining characteristics of any notion of trust and safety is the different types of relationships that have the potential to exist. We see three central relationship structures with trust and safety in the marketplace.

  1. Business and Consumer
  2. Consumer and Business
  3. User and User

Business and Consumer

Businesses are often the targets of theft, fraud, or other types of malicious attacks. While this is not a new phenomena, advancing technologies are enabling new techniques in committing old forms of fraud and new types of fraud by bad actors. For example, before online customer accounts, the primary concern for merchants was fraudulent credit purchases from stolen credit cards. Now merchants also worry about customer accounts that have payment information bound to the account from being compromised, in addition to the fraudulent credit payments. Using identifying data in determining who is perpetrating attacks as they happen or who has done so in the past is central for an enterprise’s ability to trust customers as they operate over their digital domains.

Consumer and Business

As consumers are becoming increasingly aware of business’ technological capacity to collect personal data, become aware of how this data can be used against them, and hear more news stories of major data breaches, consumers are becoming more concerned and less trusting of organizations collecting personally information.In order to avoid a loss in trust, we recommend a proactive approach in going above mere compliance and answering these types of questions benefiting both business operations and public relations.

User and User

With the growth of the shared service economy, platforms have been developed that enable users to transact directly with other users. When enabling users to coordinate with other users for economic transactions, they become exposed to greater privacy and security risks.  When using digital platforms to connect people in physical space, personally identifiable information; like phone numbers, addresses, or license plate numbers become openly available to potential malicious actors. In order to protect users from the risk of their personal information from being used against them, there needs to be means, where possible, by which users can kept this information private.

Economics as a Key Challenge


Economic participation declines when notions of trust and safety erode. This is made evident in two major causes of market failure. One cause is the fear of or the perceived possibility of defection by a market participant. Another is a fear of a negative or harmful transaction due to information asymmetries between participants. While many economic, legal, and sociological mechanisms have developed over time to help overcome these problems in the physical markets, these mechanisms erode or disappear entirely in digital ecosystems.

Information Asymmetries

Information asymmetries are where one party in a transaction knows significantly more information about items or events in a transaction than the other parties involved. For example, if you were interacting with your favorite celebrity or podcast host, you would inevitably be purview to more of the personal background information than they would of you. As such, they might be much less inclined to trust you given the advantage you hold over them in this regard. Conversely, if both parties had the same information about the transaction, this would most likely change the terms of engagement in the transaction. Information asymmetries can lead to buyers purchasing items that are different than what they had expected, or they can cause buyers to participate in transaction patterns that lead to undesirable outcomes.