Most Britons Don’t Believe Corporations Will Keep Their Data Safe

Research suggests that obscure privacy policies are damaging consumer trust

A new study by Deloitte suggests that the majority of British consumers don’t trust businesses to protect their personal information.

A report entitled “Data Nation 2013: Balancing growth and responsibility” found that just 38 percent believe companies will keep their data safe, while only 22 percent are confident their details won’t be sold on to other organisations.

According to Deloitte, generations Y and Z (aged 15 to 34), responsible for the majority of content online, are particularly likely to underestimate the importance of protecting their personal information.

The research also highlights the failure of the ‘cookie law‘ to raise awareness about data collection practices.

Trust no one

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Deloitte, found that just 35 percent of respondents are aware of the methods used to harvest their personal information online, a ten percent drop from 2012. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that an average privacy policy takes 25 minutes to read, boiling down to around 31 hours for all the websites an Internet user visits in a single year.

absolut“The British public is still not confident in how companies use and handle their personal data. Organisations need to make it easier for individuals to understand why this information is collected and what benefit they will receive.  Businesses are more likely to get maximum benefit from data if every customer interaction is based on the principles of transparency, trust and informed dialogue,” commented Harvey Lewis, analytics research director at Deloitte.

The survey seems to suggest that awareness of the value of personal data comes with age. Nearly a third of people aged between 15 and 34 (28 percent) think that companies have little or no information about them, or simply don’t know how the extent of data collection. This number drops to 19 percent for ‘generation X’ (35-44 years old) and 14 percent for ‘baby boomers’ (45-64 years old).

In the current socio-political climate, just ten percent of respondents are happy for organisations to share their data with other companies. They are twice as likely to agree to share data with public sector companies, and three times as likely if they are convinced it is for a good cause, such as medical research.

The survey also highlighted the failure of the ‘cookie law’ to increase awareness of data collection practices. The updated Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation was introduced in 2012 to protect Internet users from intrusive tracking and marketing material, but has been widely criticised as confusing and inefficient.

Deloitte’s research suggests the majority (57 percent) of UK’s Internet users usually ignore notices about cookies, or have not seen them at all. Just four percent say they know a great deal about the cookie law.

“Promoting transparency about the use of cookies and personal data is a good thing.  However, consumer engagement will depend on the timing of when they receive the information, and how easily privacy policies can be understood.  If the cookie law is truly to have a positive effect, then more layered policies will need to be created.  This will ensure consumers are educated not just through the initial notice of cookies, but at a point when they are more likely to read the detail,” said Peter Gooch, privacy practice leader at Deloitte.

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