Data Privacy

Over 50 per cent of people now think they should be managing their personal data

A new study into consumer trust has identified a strong desire for greater user empowerment over personal data as people’s awareness of how their information is collected and used by industry continues to grow.

The sixth Consumer Trust Report from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF), titled ‘Trust in the Spotlight’ explores whether brands are sacrificing long-term trust by demanding data surrender as the price of participation into digital life.

The 50-page insights survey, of 650 smartphone users in 10 countries, found that over two thirds of users agree it is important to know how their data is being used, but many feel they have no choice but to sign away their data and rights if they want to use digital services. Lack of trust was the most common barrier to using apps and services.

Key findings include:

  • Trust is in decline, which has the potential to impact bottom lines
  • Users want more control over their data
  • More users are taking preventative action but perceive little benefit
  • Users feel they have no choice but to surrender data to access services

Privacy remains as critical as ever, with 71 per cent of users rating it as important. The findings suggest that users have an appetite for more data control, but that they are in the dark about who can meet their needs.

Crucially, 56 per cent of users are far more likely to trust themselves to manage their personal data than any external organisation – an increase of 13 per cent year on year and an attitude that is rapidly becoming an established trend.

The study found that 83 per cent of participants – a nine per cent increase on last year – reported taking greater security measures to protect personal data on their phones, such as changing privacy or cookie settings, or installing anti-virus software. Despite this, perceptions of both data control and data security have worsened, and only 27 per cent of those surveyed feel they have any degree of control over how their data is used.

Users are now engaging with digital services more than ever, yet over two thirds say they refrain from purchasing or installing new apps due to low trust or permissions, which is up significantly year on year.

Such levels of privacy and data exchange concerns among users suggest the current ‘data for access’ business models may not be sustainable, and the report offers five lessons for industry:

  • Address the issue or lose business – the industry is sitting on untapped potential and lack of trust continues to hinder commerce and app downloads, which could be especially damaging to new brands and services.
  • Differentiate on trust – as users increasingly looking for trust reassurances, consistent words and actions have the power to differentiate.
  • Consumer experience is key – Doing the right thing is not good enough, it also has to be easy for customers to do.
  • Data protection is a new service opportunity – There is space for companies to offer solutions to users actively trying to defend their personal data and to educate on appropriate tools and services for them.
  • Invest in quality of data – Industry will need to invest in better sources and better data cleaning to ensure they are receiving accurate data.

MEF’s CEO Dario Betti said the reports issues a clear call to action to industry: “Brands have an opportunity to build trust and thereby increase revenues, reduce cart abandonment and customer churn by advancing new personal data management and protection approaches. They must empower consumers and go beyond compliance to industry-standard privacy and data regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA.”

Craig Thole, Senior Vice President, Product at Assurant who supported this year’s study, said in a foreword: “This year’s MEF Global Trust Study presents industry leaders with an opportunity…(to) empower consumers by giving them easy to use personal information management solutions to protect and take control of their identity and personal information. Now is the time to act.”