The Internet is a tough thing for the average person to define. It’s a hard concept for me to even start to wrap my head around -in simple words the internet is an information system that exists in this intangible world, serving as a repository for the world’s collective knowledge and expertise. You and I are probably accessing just the shallowest surface level of the web, mostly browsing pages that have titles like “23 Cats Having a Worse Monday than You”.

And that is just the fluffy, mundane part of the web. Now, the Internet is stepping away from its original form and is starting to publicly take the shape of something that can interact with us in “real life”, whether it is for mankind’s betterment or destruction. Given recent news headlines it is no surprise that the tech community is calling for guidelines and regulations around the web, particularly when it comes to it’s governing body, transparency, and anonymity.

In his Ted Talk, journalist and social media activist Jamie Bartlett, voices his concerns on the degree of privacy the average individual has from the government and large corporations that have the ability to track massive amounts of online information. In reality, there is very little of our browsing activity that is secure or even handled in a responsible manner. Books that we check out from the library, our banking information, even the route we take to work every morning can be tracked, collected, stolen, and used against us.

In response more and more people are accessing what is known as the “dark net” an online community that exists in complete anonymity. (Catharine’s disclaimer: DO NOT GO TO THE DARK NET – content is fraught with illegal activity, subjects that are morally and emotionally traumatic, and overall incriminating/dangerous.)

Now as you can imagine, the dark net is used for two things. The same boring cat browsing that the average Internet user is doing and, well, illegal things. The dark web is host to an e-commerce community that specializes in all of your black market needs; from garden variety illegal substances to the most abhorrent illicit activity. Anything you could possibly dream of is available for a price.

Ethics aside, the most absolutely insane thing about this entire process is that money is exchanged and product is delivered to happy clients again and again.

Bartlett touches on all kinds of human ingenuity that occurs within this outcast community but what is particularly interesting is how trusting relationships are built between clients and vendors. Like the concept of the Internet, trust is a difficult word to define and is filled with grey, uncomfortable places.

At Soundboard, we break trust into four components; reliability, capability, sincerity, and care. This way we have a starting point to assess the reasons why we do or do not trust an individual. For example, questions like:

  • Are they dependable/timely in their agreements?
  • Do they have the right ability?
  • Are the genuine in intention?
  • And do they have your interests in mind?

According to a recent study by Interaction Associates, trust is the most important facet of any workplace relationship. It is responsible for capacity building, retention, productivity, office morale, and of course profitability – yet leadership teams spend little time actually cultivating a culture of trust.

How can we build trust with the people around us, even when a lot is at risk? Surprisingly the simple answer is perfectly illustrated in the client service of the dark net.

Trusting relationships are rooted in honest feedback. The way that these private dark net vendors build trust is though accounts of untraceable usernames that are linked with client reviews. If a vendor receives glowing reviews they will experience a higher and more substantial volume of relationships. On the other hand, poor reviews alert the vendor to the behavior that needs to be adjusted to regain or develop trust in their targeted market. In some cases, there may even be a third party mediator that will act as a middleman so that everyone in the transaction is satisfied.

The same is true for relationships in which human capital is at stake. Managers who properly seek and deliver feedback create relationships that prize improvement and are built on a sturdy foundation of trust. In order to have a successful relationship that results in a mutual benefit no matter the conditions you need trust supported by an open line of feedback.