Dataphobia: Consumers Distrust Personalization, Survey Shows

U.S. consumers are the most trusting in the world when it comes to use of their data, according to RSA Data Privacy & Security Survey 2019, a study by RSA.

Of the U.S. respondents, 60% believe that data can be ethically used. But only 48% of the UK participants agree, versus 45% of the French and 43% of the Germans. Overall, the total is 48%.

Only 29% of respondents worldwide agree that providing more data leads to better products and services. That percentage is down from 31% in 2017.

People are particularly distrustful of personalization and of the many forms that it takes.

For instance, a mere 24% feel tailored news feeds are ethical — the remainder do not. But 31% of U.S. consumers agree they are ethical.

In addition, 25% feel recommendations based on purchase/behavior/browsing history are ethical.

Consumers are most likely to agree to personalized data use for security purposes is ethical, with 45% saying so (56% in the U.S.). In addition, 36% will allow tracking devices and location to identify unauthorized access.



The percentages drop when we get to other marketing uses:

For example, 28% agree that using a “like” history to recommend content is ethical (38% in the U.S.). And a paltry 17% feel positive about tracking activity to tailor advertisements.

Apparently, they are most forgiving about use of commuting habits — 42% say it is ethical.

RSA surveyed 6,387 consumers in France, Germany, the UK and the U.S. It is not clear whether the beliefs reflected in the survey reflect actual online behavior.

In general, it found that 78% fear losing control of their financial and banking data. And 75% are concerned about security information, while 70% worry about identity information, 61% are concerned about medical information, and 57% worry about contact data, which would include email address.

Boomers are more concerned about those data points than people in other age groups, 

Meanwhile, 54% digital natives — those in the millennial and Gen Z — are comfortable sharing data, versus 49% of the boomers. Gen Z is closer to the older people in worrying about their digital footprint — i.e., location, photos and videos. 

Of those polled, 36% say they have been the victim of a data breach, 45% in the U.S. But they have different views on who is to blame.

Of U.S. consumers, 64% think companies are to blame. And that view is shared by 72% of those in the UK. 

But only 50% of the French agree, and 43% of the Germans, showing that victims in those countries assign primary blame to the hackers.

Also, the study found that:

  • U.S. and French consumers are more comfortable sharing data.
  • Only 43% of French respondents feel protective of their communications, including emails and messages.
  • Germans are the most protective, especially after the attention being given to privacy because of GDPR.


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