We are creating, collecting and connecting more data from more sources than ever before. Businesses can apply insights from consumer data like real time responses to products and brands, personalised recommendations and of course, marketing. We’re often bombarded with excited predictions about the future possibilities of the data driven economy – from health insights via wearables to ever more personalised services.
But alongside contemplating what’s technically possible, the issue of consumer trust and confidence requires some serious thought. 76% of UK consumers are concerned by how information collected online is used by companies, which has contributed to a lack of trust.
This is because much of this data (even if it doesn’t fit the legal definition of ‘personal’) can reveal an awful lot about our personal habits, behaviours, incomes and attitudes. And while it’s popular to assert that people just don’t care about privacy anymore, there’s actually been a rise in the use of privacy settings and technologies particularly amongst younger people.
Not knowing for certain who has this data, for how long, what they are doing with and what they will do with it in the future makes us worry. 78% of UK consumers don’t know what personal information companies hold about them, 55% of Europeans fear exposure to fraud because of disclosing information when shopping online, and 68% of us describe the way brands use our information as ‘creepy’.
A lot of these worries are rooted in the bigger imbalance in the data relationship, neatly illustrated by the ‘take it or leave it’ nature of most terms and conditions. Even if consumers can understand them and have time to read them, terms and conditions are difficult to verify and uphold – how do you know if the company is doing what it says it is doing, and what exactly can you do if they aren’t?
So while businesses may be compliant, consumers are not confident. But listening to what consumers say they would like gives plenty of clues as to how trust and confidence can be built:
- Transparency: we want to know how our data is used and a clearer understanding of who holds organisations to account.
- Control: almost 90% of consumers want more control over their personal information, and 74% want better access to information companies have on them
- Value: we want this information to help make better decisions, recognising its value and benefit and wantingour fair share. Some research suggests that people would be willing to share more if they were able to use data but only on the condition that they could maintain control.
Working out how to deliver these requirements in simple, effective ways will be the next challenge. But starting from where consumers are and understanding what they want will give businesses a much better basis on which to build a trusted and productive data relationship and hopefully, forge a fairer data deal for consumers.
Liz Coll is digital policy manager at Citizens Advice, campaigning for fairer data practices and exploring how to maximise the power of personal data for people. Personal data empowerment: time for a fairer data deal? is available now.