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There is a growing crisis of trust in how companies use personal data online, a survey of nearly 1,000 UK consumers has revealed.
Nearly three-quarters of consumers polled said they are concerned about businesses that collect their data online, with more than a third saying they are “very concerned”, according to research commissioned by business consultancy Ctrl-Shift.
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More than a third of respondents said they do not understand how personal information is used online, and most of those who said they did admitted not having a full understanding.
Only 14% said they have a good understanding of how personal information and data is used by businesses.
The study also shows that those with higher levels of understanding of how data is used by companies appear to be more concerned, with 79% of those who said they understood how data was used also saying they were concerned, compared with just 66% of those who did not know.
In the light of these concerns, the study report said businesses have much to do to reassure consumers that they can be trusted, with a third of respondents stating that they would not use online services even if they promised to “keep private information safely and securely”.
However, businesses that are trusted can expect to be rewarded, the study shows, with one in 10 saying they were prepared to give additional information to businesses that they liked or trusted.
The survey revealed the majority of consumers (56%) are unhappy with businesses using internet data to build up an online profile of their habits, even when doing so meant they received “products, services, and promotions that are relevant to me”.
Only one in five consumers are happy to have their online data collected in this way, despite it being common practice for most websites.
Seven in 10 had actively taken steps in the past three months to protect their personal information online, including clearing browsing history (44%), changing passwords (39%), adjusted privacy settings (23%) and avoiding social media log-in services for external websites (13%).
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Liz Brandt, CEO of Ctrl-Shift, said: “Over the past 10 years, our economy has undergone a massive transformation fuelled by data, which holds huge potential for businesses and individuals, but only if it is based on trust.
“Our polling reveals growing concerns about the use of personal information by companies, which risks stifling the potential growth in the next stage of the digital economy,” she said.
According to Brandt, all organisations need to take note of these concerns and focus on building digital products and services that are based on trusted, sustainable customer relationships.
“We need to get to a place where consumers have trust and where services are building trust because privacy is built in,” she told the Personal Information Economy (PIE) 2016 conference in London.
“Those businesses that have products and services based on trust have a significant opportunity to future-proof their business and open up revenue streams; those that don’t risk being side-lined by the competition,” she said.
The PIE conference, said Brandt, is aimed at bringing together businesses to discuss how organisations are building customer trust in the use of personal information, launching new services and turning compliance into a platform for innovation and growth.
Speakers at the conference include the UK’s new information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, and representatives from Facebook, the BBC, Barclays, Telefonica, MIT, Verizon and Call Credit.