A global survey found few consumers trust data collection, even if it could serve social good.
A report of consumer opinions about privacy finds that very few are willing to give up personal data despite not having a solid grasp on what constitutes their digital identity.
The report from the multifactor authentication provider Okta found that internet users were generally only aware of six out of the 13 types of data tracked online, with very few realizing music listened to online, videos watched, and social media posts were often recorded and tracked as part of their digital identity.
The survey also found that a vast number of Americans don’t believe that they’re being tracked to the extent that they are. 78% don’t think that consumer hardware companies (Apple, Fitbit, etc.) are tracking their biometric or location data, and 75% don’t think that streaming services collect information about their media consumption habits.
Despite generally not understanding the nature of online privacy, most people are also unwilling to surrender their personal data, even in the face of a threat like COVID-19.
More than half of American respondents say they’re uncomfortable with personally identifying information, Bluetooth data, medical data, or location data being collected to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and the reasons they don’t want that data collected are consistent with concerns around the world: It’ll be used for other purposes once the pandemic subsides.
86% of US respondents, 79% of Australians, 87% of Germans, and 84% of people in the UK all hold that belief, which makes clear the biggest problem with online data collection: Consumers don’t trust the people collecting their data.
Can data collection trust be earned?
Governments, social media sites, search engines, and advertisers are among the least trusted with data collection, the report found, with one of the largest concerns being those businesses profiting off the collection of their data.
A whopping 93% said they’re uncomfortable with businesses selling even a portion of the data they collect on them, with biometric data, passwords, and offline conversations being the biggest concerns.
The report mentions a proposal by former US presidential candidate Andrew Yang as a possible way forward: Give consumers the opportunity to sell their data directly, or otherwise reap some of the economic benefits of its collection.
That idea isn’t really flying with internet users, though, with nearly half of Dutch and German respondents saying they wouldn’t sell their data for cash, and around a third of those in the US and France not liking the idea. Around a quarter of people said they aren’t sure about the concept, which means trading customer data for cash may be difficult in more than half of cases on average.
With trust lacking and customers largely unwilling to part with their personal data despite many not understanding the depth and breadth of their online identities, Okta concludes that businesses collecting data only have one path ahead of them: Transparency.
“Consumers deserve to have control over their data, but at the same time, data is often essential to building new technologies and serving the common good. To strike a balance, organizations around the globe must embrace transparency and help their customers understand how their data is being used.”