Worrywarts: Consumers Don't Trust Brands With Their Data

Two surveys have come out showing that Americans are more wary about their privacy than marketers may think.

Only 41% of U.S. consumers trust firms to protect their data, according to The Digital Society Index 2019: Human Needs in a Digital World, a study by Dentsu Aegis Network.

Dentsu and Oxford Economics surveyed 43,000 people globally.

First, the good news for digital evangelists: The U.S. is the most plugged-in country in the world. Singapore is second, followed by the UK and Germany. 

Of the U.S. consumers polled, 77% are likely to watch TV on a streaming device and 60% will use an app to conduct their banking. And 67% believe the positive impact of digital outweighs the negative.

Yet 45% have taken steps to shrink their online footprint in the past year. And 75% of U.S. consumers would stop doing business with a firm that misused their data.

Email marketers, beware: A recipient could easily see a creepy or badly personalized email as a misuse of data.  



Moreover, 72% have tried to limit their digital activities, with 24% installing ad blockers and 12% deactivating a social media account.

Their concerns go beyond privacy to health. Only 30% feel the digital tide has a positive effect on their health and well-being.

Furthermore, 57% feel their digital access and trust needs are not well-addressed, versus a global average of 51%. But 46% believe digital is meeting their self-fulfillment needs (i.e., education, jobs) compared to 45% globally. 

In addition, 47% feel that not enough is being done to make the benefits of digital technology available to everyone. Only 40% believe digital will solve the mot pressing world challenges. And 28% say digital tech will create jobs.

“This study should serve as a wakeup call,” states Dirk Herbert, U.S. chief strategy officer, Dentsu Aegis Network. “With digital optimism fading, business as usual is not an option.”

A similar level of worry is evident in a survey of 1,139 Americans by Pollfish, commissioned by Clever Real Estate. It found that 80% have privacy concerns about Facebook, and that 95% worry about maintaining their privacy on social media in general.

In addition, 83% find it creepy when a brand’s ads follow them around online, and 76% are annoyed by social media ads.

The study also found that only 30% of those surveyed are comfortable sharing information with a brand they don’t know.

But appearance counts: 86% of Americans in general and 92% of millennials say the look of a website or app helps to persuade them when deciding whether to share personal data. 

“While it might be a golden age for marketers, concerns around privacy and data collection are on the rise,” writes Thomas O'Shaughnessy, a research analyst with Clever Real Estate.

He adds: “Scandals like Facebook’s recent plain-text password debacle and the HUD lawsuit filed against Facebook’s ad targeting practices have shattered the public’s trust in the tech companies that have become interwoven in our lives.”


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