MEF’s Global Consumer Trust Study 2018: empowered consumers take action in a landmark year for personal data

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The fifth MEF Global Consumer Trust Report shows a significant increase in the number of consumers protecting their personal data, as well as associated opportunities for companies who want to help people manage and do more with their own information.

This year’s report, which looks at the intersection of Privacy, Trust and Personal Data in association with Assurant, found that the vast majority of respondents – 76 per cent – are now taking some action to protect themselves.

The report comes in the wake of a year that has seen millions touched by data breaches or misuse, as well as the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe.

It finds clear evidence of a tipping point being reached, with people across the world waking up to the extent to which their personal data has been compromised. The result is a “wave of activity” as consumers try to protect their personal information and digital identities.

The report also identifies a new phenomenon of empowered consumers taking action – while the so-called privacy paradox of forgoing privacy and security for short term gain or value is alive and well, a majority of respondents have taken at least one step in the last two years to proactively protect their personal data and mitigate potential harm.

It is emphatic that “empowering people with the ability to control their identity and personal information is key to earning trust and customer loyalty”, adding that “people should strive to take a more active role in the management of their own identity and personal information. Private and public institutions should engender trust through honest and transparent dealings while ensuring that they safeguard and secure people’s most valuable asset: their identity and personal information.”

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Trust has clearly taken a hit with so much data misuse being reported, but the upshot, the report says, is that the market is ready to embrace sophisticated tools for personal data protection and management. But there remains work to be done – these tools need to be easier to use, and mass market education is needed to drive adoption. In unsurprising news, trust remains a key ingredient.

Dario Betti, the report’s author, said: “The collective impact of personal data scandals and new data privacy laws tipped smartphone users to reconsider what to do with their personal data. Finally, a clear majority of users are trying to protect their data.

“The industry needs to help with market education. Users are still finding their feet, testing out different and often rather unsophisticated actions. It is the right time for the industry to invest and educate on best practices. Today, the users are keen to take action.”

The report also found a clear trend of users valuing their privacy and personal data, but not feeling in control of it. While only 27 per cent of those asked say that they feel in control of their data, the levels of those who feel they have some control have risen from a year ago.

Crucially, consumers are ready to take back control of their data – 63 per cent say they are willing to manage their own data, with 43 per cent saying they would trust themselves to do it.

The MEF study findings concllude that there is now a “moment of opportunity” for personal data management companies as consumers become more willing to take action on personal data and start to look for remedies.

Stumbling blocks to taking action include a lack of knowledge and perceived complexity of technical solutions, so making services easy to use and raising awareness of their existence and benefits of use is essential.

In a nutshell, the industry must work to build greater clarity and transparency – but the potential rewards for doing so are enormous.

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