How do consumers feel about privacy and their data, especially with GDPR fast approaching?
In the 2018 ‘Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks’ report, the DMA, Acxiom and Foresight Factory, aimed to explore just that. The report reviewed consumer perceptions and concerns over data, how these are changing over time, and the impact that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is already having.
As we’ve explored in the past, consumers typically fall into one of three categories regarding their opinions on data collection and use; they are either unconcerned, pragmatists (who are happy to share data when there is a clear value exchange), or fundamentalists (who have an unwilling perspective on data sharing and collection).
So, how are these different consumer types considering their data in 2018? What key trends can be seen?
10 Consumer Data Privacy Trends For 2018
1. Privacy concerns are declining ahead of GDPR, and happiness with the level of data shared rises
The introduction of GDPR (from 25th May 2018) is designed to balance consumer’s rights to privacy with the legitimate interests of companies wanting to serve them better. In line with this, interestingly, even before the new GDPR rules have come into force, the report saw overall privacy concerns decline (since research of this nature was first conducted in 2012).
This highlights that consumer awareness and understanding of the role that data exchange plays in modern societies is increasing, though equally, consumers want organisations to be accountable and transparent about what they’re doing.
For example, the number of people in the UK who claim to be concerned about the issue of online privacy has fallen from 84% in 2012 to 75% in late 2017. Among 18-24 year-old consumers, concern with online privacy falls to just 58%, down from 75% in 2012. At the same time, almost two-thirds of consumers are now happy with the amount of personal information they share with organisations.
2. The ‘Data Unconcerned’ are the fastest growing segment of UK society
Those consumers who show little or no concern with the issue of digital privacy or data exchange – the ‘Data Unconcerned’ has increased, from 16% of the UK population in 2012 to 25% in 2017 – making it the fastest growing segment of UK consumers.
The percentage of ‘Data Pragmatists’ (those who are willing to part with personal information so long as there is a clear reward for doing so) sits at 50%: making them the largest segment within the UK, and meaning that a total 75% of the UK are either unconcerned with data sharing, or understand the benefits of doing so.
In contrast, the number of Data Fundamentalists, who show an unwillingness to share personal data under any circumstances, has fallen from 31% of the UK in 2012 to 25% in 2017.
3. Awareness and understanding of the role of data exchange in modern societies is increasing
The number of people in the UK who see the exchange of personal information as essential for the smooth running of modern society has grown notably. Just over half of UK consumers are now aware of, and understand the role of data exchange in modern society, compared to 38% in 2012.
4. Younger generations show more awareness and acceptance of data-exchange
A generational shift in attitudes towards data-exchange is underway. Younger consumers are more likely to adopt a pragmatic or unconcerned attitude towards data sharing, and their concerns have decreased since 2012. Over 65’s continue to show less confidence in sharing personal information in comparison to 18-24s, and their high level of concern over data sharing has remained stable since 2012. Such evidence suggests that a more nuanced and tailored approach to engaging different generational groups within the UK data economy will be increasingly important.
5. The industry continues to be seen as disproportionally benefiting from the data economy
So, how do consumers view the data industry itself? The report determined that the vast majority of consumers (78%) believe that businesses benefit disproportionately from data exchange in the UK, while only 8% think that consumers benefit the most; a perceived asymmetry in data sharing that has remained more or less stable since 2015.
Younger consumers continue to be more likely to believe that the consumer benefits most from data sharing; 1-in-5 18-24 year-olds now hold this view.
6. Control remains the core consumer aspiration
Perspectives on data control remain an important issue – and are particularly current as we move toward GDPR compliance. In 2017, 86% of consumers would like more control over data collection and usage, however when asked about specific areas of data exchange, consumers in the UK claim a consistent loss of control between 2015 and 2017.
For example, the proportion of consumers who feel that they have a lack of control over preventing companies from collecting information about them has increased from 56% in 2015 to 65%. Consequently, there is a growing gap between the aspiration for control among consumers and the degree to which industry is responding to this demand.
7. Establishing trust is paramount to developing a sustainable data economy
By far the most important factor for consumers in deciding to share their personal data is whether they trust the relevant organisation. In fact, 54% of respondents ranked trust as one of their top three considerations for data exchange. Trust in an organisation or business remains the dominant prerequisite when engaging consumers within the data economy.
8. Transparency is a fundamental consumer priority for data exchange
Transparency remains a core consumer consideration, if they are to engage in information exchange with organisations. Between 85% and 88% of consumers state that transparency over data collection and sharing, the benefits on offer and the terms and conditions are important when sharing personal information with businesses.
9. Interest in ad blocking is an emerging challenge for the industry
One third of consumers surveyed indicated they have used ad blocking technology, with another 41% claiming to be interested in doing so. Less than 1 in 5 show no interest in ad blocking. The use of such technology would enable consumers to put any unrest with the current value exchange model into more direct action. This reinforces the importance of ensuring that the benefits derived from data sharing are communicated and resonate with consumers.
10. Consumers continue to assume most responsibility for their own data security
Almost half (48%) of consumers in the UK believe they should have ultimate responsibility for their data security, up marginally from 2012. In comparison, 10% believe that the government should have ultimate responsibility and just 7% claim that brands/industry should.
Changing Data Privacy Perspectives
Essentially, consumers increasingly understand the part that data has to play in modern society. But with this increased awareness, come increased expectations; consumers equally want organisations to be accountable and transparent – as should be the case!
This strikes at one of the core principles of GDPR, accountability. This principle requires companies to consider the impact on privacy and the risks posed to their customers before doing anything with their data and strives to achieve a balance between privacy and innovation.
It will be interesting to see how consumers and organisations align over such accountability, and how perspectives of data change again, in the coming year post-GDPR.