Privacy, Data, and the Consumer: What the U.S. Thinks About Sharing Data

This article, written by MarTech Advisor’s Research Director, Surajit Nath, was first published on MarTech Advisor on September 18th, 2018.

We like our privacy. We don’t want others to have access to our lives. But as consumers, we also want our favorite brands to read us like an open book. In fact, digital guru Mary Meeker in this year’s Internet Trends report mentioned that tech companies are experiencing a ‘privacy paradox’, where they’re caught between using data to provide better consumer experiences and impinging on consumer privacy.

Yet, in “Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks”, a report commissioned by Acxiom in partnership with the DMA, it was found that the 2,076 US citizens that were surveyed were willing to share their information where it makes sense.

The report found out that consumers see value in the data-driven economy. However, marketers must nurture their trust through responsible marketing and inform consumers of the value received through the exchange of data.

‘The companies that produce and interact with connected devices, from smart TVs, smart cars to smart medicine, need to be operationally equipped to ask the right questions at the right time. Operational readiness and applied data ethics must be built into the early stages of product development, all the way through to launch and beyond’, writes Sheila Colclasure, Chief Data Ethics Officer, and Public Policy Executive, Acxiom and LiveRamp.

We asked Jed Mole, Vice President, Marketing, Acxiom, about his opinion on personal data and data exchanges:

What are the top reasons consumers may be wary of brands holding their personal data?
More than anything, the answer is a lack of true understanding of how marketers use data. Brands understand that their ability to source the right, relevant marketing-related data ethically and use it in a way that benefits consumers rather than causing worry or harm, is the key to building trust with consumers.

When consumers search online for free, check their free email accounts, post on their free social media accounts and more, all this value is not linked to the data, despite it being fundamentally underpinned by it. Data supports jobs in the economy, sustains a free press, and enables a brand to narrow the focus of its outreach, which results in more relevant marketing and lower prices for the things consumers buy.

It is understandable that consumers are wary of trusting brands when so little of this economic and societal value exchange is understood; simply speaking, they don’t see the full picture.

What should brands do to make consumers feel better about the data exchange?
I believe it is relatively simple. Consumers want organizations to keep their data safe, to only have data they should reasonably expect to have and then to use it to drive value to them; not forgetting the new imperative of also making that value transparent to the consumer.

To prevent data being lost or stolen is the most obvious “table stake” for consumers. Just as important is the question of whether marketers should have it in the first place. This links clearly to the likes of GDPR in Europe where the bar has been raised for all organizations around justification of the data they hold. But if we have the right data, for the right reasons, if we keep it safe and if we can make it more transparent how we’re using that data to provide a more respectful, personalized, fairer and rewarding service to the consumer, the trust will grow. Equally, we need to trust the consumer, again by providing transparent access to the data we hold, clarity around how we use it and the ability for them to control their data.

Overall, the research shows that while consumers are rightly concerned about data privacy, they are also aware that data is an essential part of today’s economy, with 57% on average, globally, agreeing or strongly agreeing. Factor in the neutrals and around two-thirds of consumers are accepting or neutral around data use in today’s data-driven, data-enabled world.

MTA: Thanks for that perspective, Jed!

The following infographic, which is based on the report, explains why consumers believe that sharing data and personal information online is not intrusive. It also delves into the perception of the value of such data, what types of data consumers are willing to share, and how trust, transparency, and clarity are essential in a data-driven economy.

Some of the key takeaways from the report are:

  • Most consumers are data pragmatists.
  • There’s a pressing need to address the perceived asymmetry between industry and consumers.
  • Data control and autonomy are critical for US consumers.

Dive into the findings of the report in this infographic and find out public attitudes, perceptions, and concerns over data, how these are changing over time, and the impact of GDPR on data privacy.

 

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