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How is the Consumer Data Privacy Landscape Evolving?

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at March 27th, 2018

How is the Consumer Data Privacy Landscape Evolving?

At this time of fragmented technology, exponential data growth and GDPR, how are consumer perspectives toward data evolving? To find out, Acxiom is proud to have partnered with the DMA for the second time, on the third iteration of the Foresight Factory’s independent research into ‘Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks”.

So, what are consumer and societal attitudes toward data and data privacy in the UK?

Data Privacy Pragmatists, Fundamentalists and the Unconcerned

In 2012 and 2015, (and as we’ve previously outlined) the DMA/Foresight Factory constructed a segmentation analysis that categorises consumers according to their attitudes toward privacy and data exchange. It has been determined that consumers are either:

  • Data Pragmatists; prepared to exchange data on a quid pro quo basis, where a service offered is worth the information requested.
  • Data Fundamentalists; unwilling to provide personal information, even in return for service enhancement.
  • Data Unconcerned; unconcerned about the collection and use of their personal information.

Looking at these three segments to determine how consumer data attitudes are evolving, as of 2018, it seems that those consumers who are ‘Unconcerned’ are on the rise. Equally the percentage of ‘Data Fundamentalists’ has dropped, while the number of people who are ‘Data Pragmatists’ has remained fairly static across half of the population, although there has been a slight decline since 2015.

Why might this be? With a maturing data economy and a more data literate public, it is clear that a greater percentage of UK society now understand more of the benefits and motivations behind transparent compliant data exchange. However it may be somewhat surprising that there is not a notable increase in the number of people seeking clear personal benefits in exchange for personal information; perhaps indicative of challenges that the data industry is facing with regard to demonstrating or communicating value exchange to consumers within the current data economy (increasingly key as we approach GDPR).

  • 50% of the population are Data Pragmatists, down from 53% in 2012. Pragmatists are the largest consumer segment in the UK in 2018, though this is a slight decrease of 4% since 2015, mainly due to a decline in the proportion of millennials (aged 18-34) in that category, and an increase in Generation X consumers (aged 35-54). This may be explained by the fact that consumers in this demographic are accustomed to technology, but did not grow up as ‘digital natives’ like Millennials, so they are likely to be slightly more discerning about data privacy issues and more demanding of incentives in return for personal information.
  • 25% are Data Fundamentalists, down from 31% in 2012. The Fundamentalist consumer segment saw a decline of 7% from 2012 to 2015, but has remained relatively stable since then. The most significant decrease was seen among Generation X consumers in that same period, falling from 35% in 2012 to 23% in 2015. Baby-Boomers (aged 55-72) comprise the largest proportion within this segment, which is likely due to older demographics conventionally displaying higher levels of concern and discomfort around data sharing with organisations.
  • 25% are Data Unconcerned, up from 16% in 2012. The Unconcerned consumer segment has been growing steadily since 2012, with the proportion of Millennials showing a sharp increase to 38% – up from 27% in 2015. One of the likely reasons behind the increase in the number of Unconcerned Millennials is that these younger consumers have grown up as digital natives and are comfortable with accepting the status quo of data exchange and are less concerned about online privacy issues.

Overall, such findings (particularly as we see that 75% of the UK public show no fundamental or ideological objection to the sharing of their personal data), suggest fertile ground for a healthy, sustainable and mutually beneficial data eco-system in the UK.

Looking at Other Data Privacy Trends

Other data privacy trends seen in the report include:

Concerns over privacy continue to decline

The trend towards declining concern over the issue of online privacy, first observed in 2015, has continued to gain momentum. The number of people in the UK who claim to be concerned about online privacy has fallen from 84% in 2012 to 75% in 2017. Online privacy is clearly still a concern for the majority of people in the UK. However, the sustained trend we are observing is towards a future where digital privacy is less of an issue.

Consumers are increasingly happy with the amount of information they share

Alongside declining levels of concern about data privacy, there is also a steady increase in the number of UK consumers who are happy with the amount of information they share with brands and organisations. The number of people who claim to be happy with the amount of information they share has risen to 61% in 2017, up from 57% in 2012.

Rising public awareness and acceptance of data exchange

There is continued growth in awareness and understanding towards the role of data exchange in modern societies. It is now just over half (51%) of people in the UK who believe the exchange of personal information is essential for the smooth running of modern societies, up from just 38% in 2012. Moreover, at 61%, it is now a strong majority of 18-24 year-olds who view data exchange as vital to modern society.

Personal data sharing is an increasingly accepted part of the modern economy

A significant majority of UK society continues to view the sharing of personal data as part of the modern economy. A total of 69% hold this view in 2017, although this has fallen slightly from 72% in 2015.

A majority of UK consumers claim to be more aware of how their data is used and collected

Alongside the growing acceptance of the role and value of data exchange in modern society, we also note a majority of people in the UK continue to claim to be more aware of how their data is used and collected than in the past; 67% agreed with this statement in 2017.

Data Privacy in 2018

Ultimately, we are starting to see an increase in pace in societal acceptance and awareness of the use and role of data in modern societies. Concerns toward online privacy have fallen, and appreciation is growing toward the role that data sharing plays.

Yet, with still only half of the UK public indicating that they are comfortable with exchanging personal data with the industry, there is still some way to go. Encouraging this with greater transparency and positive engagement is something that the upcoming GDPR should help to achieve.