How do consumers feel about their data, and specifically how are consumer attitudes towards the rights and responsibilities of data changing?
In February 2018, Acxiom and the DMA revealed the state of consumer data awareness with the third iteration of the report ‘Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks’. While recent news stories regarding data will have altered consumer attitude ‘in the moment’, it is highly likely as with most news events, that the underlying consumer attitudes remain less volatile and much closer to those revealed in this research.
Detailing changing consumer attitudes to data privacy, as well as considerations to promote a healthy UK data economy and trends ahead of GDPR, the report shows that in 2018 there is a growing sense of awareness and understanding around online privacy and data sharing practices among UK consumers.
These societal changes point towards a maturing data economy in the UK, which is also shaping consumer attitudes and behaviour around rights and responsibilities with regard to data exchange.
So, how do UK consumers currently feel about data rights and responsibilities?
Who Should be Responsible for Data?
When asked ‘who should have the ultimate responsibility for your data security?’, we see a growing sense of individual responsibility for data and data exchange.
- Almost half (48%) of consumers believe that they should have ultimate responsibility for their data security, rising slightly compared to 2015 (46%).
- Moreover, whilst the number of respondents who think that the burden lies with brands/ organisations has nearly doubled since 2015, it is still only 7% of the population who hold this view.
One driver of growing responsibility towards data security is likely the high awareness amongst UK consumers of news headlines about data security breaches. In 2017, 88% of consumers said that these kind of news headlines had heightened their awareness of their own data privacy – up from 76% in 2015. In particular, older demographics showed strong agreement, with more than 9 out of 10 respondents aged 55+ indicating that they had become more conscious of personal data privacy as a result of such news reports.
It is also noteworthy that awareness of data breaches highlighted in the media has not dampened the trend towards an overall decline in concerns around online privacy, suggesting this is an entrenched and established change in public opinion.
News of increased consumer data awareness is particularly resonant as we approach the implementation of GDPR in May 2018.
According to the report:
- Currently, 39% of consumers indicate that they are familiar with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will be introduced in May 2018 – rising to around half amongst 18 – 34 year-olds.
- Yet even though most UK consumers say that they have become more aware of personal data privacy, understanding of specific laws and regulations is lower.
A growing number of people in the UK also indicate an awareness that they can ask to see their personal data which is being held by an organisation.
- In 2017, 51% of consumers answered that they are aware that they have this right – up from 46% in 2012.
- 28% of these respondents also said that they had in fact requested to see information held on them by a specific brand, rising to 45% amongst 25 to 34 year-olds.
It is also notable that women show less awareness of their right to request to see information that is being held and to action such rights, compared to their male counterparts.
Data and Collaboration Across Industry and Government
Technological change, and advances in areas such as the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are also expected to create a range of new threats to the data economy in the UK, particularly in relation to data privacy and security.
In the face of this, it is widely expected that more collaboration across industry competitor silos, and across business and government, will be a crucial step to ensure that the data economy infrastructure and safeguards are fit for purpose. Moreover, wider sharing of data across industry and government will also enable improvements to the types and sophistication of services that consumers receive.
Interestingly, the report found sizeable support for data sharing across government departments and across industry:
- 41% of consumers in the UK would be happy for government departments to share their personal information to make public services more efficient. This rises even further to 54% among 18-24 year-olds.
- Support for a business to share personal information with other businesses to provide more tailored services and products is less, with around a third agreeing with the statement. However, this figure rises to 41% amongst 18-24 year-olds and these figures do not include those who are ‘neutral’ to the idea.
It is also interesting that high majorities of consumers are interested in brands combining different data sets (financial, health etc) in order to receive useful advice and benefits. In 2017, 68% said such service offers are important to them when sharing data with a company, compared to 59% in 2015.
Considering the Changing Data Landscape
For both future security concerns and enhanced service offers, the pooling and sharing of different data sets will become increasingly important across and between industry and government.
Such collaboration will be crucial to ensure the future prosperity of the data economy in the UK, though it’s likely that more transparency around benefits is required to convince consumers of the benefits of such collaboration, especially with regard to data sharing across businesses.
Ultimately, we are starting to see advancing awareness and acceptance of the use, role and responsibilities entailed in data today, although there is still, of course, room for progress.