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Consumer distrust ‘puts brakes’ on digital economy

A majority of UK adults are uncomfortable sharing data.

By Alexander Sword

The drive for greater customisation and tailored products could be hampered by customers’ fears about use of their data.

Digital Catapult research has found that 60 percent of UK consumers were uncomfortable sharing personal data and 14 percent refused to share any at all.

There were also worrying findings about transparency amongst organisations; 65 percent of respondents were ‘unsure if data was being shared without their consent’.

Retail came under particularly heavy fire, with 30 percent claiming that it was most guilty of using personal data without being clear about doing so. Despite outrage over government snooping, the public sector was the most trusted with data, with 44 percent of the vote. Telecoms was the least trusted with 2 percent.

While 79 percent of consumers believed that the main use of personal data was for the organisations’ economic gain, 43 percent would share information if it was used to improve society, in, for example, healthcare or education.

In addition, 21 percent said that monetary gain would convince them to share their personal data, with 61 percent stating that their information should be worth £30 per month.

Sue Daley, Head of Programme, Big Data, cloud and mobile, commented:

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"The role and importance of data to the continued development of the UK digital economy is clear. Data is the power that will drive our digital economy. But our digital future will only be fully realised if consumers feel confident to share their data.

"Ensuring personal information is handled in an appropriate and transparent way is key to maintaining consumer privacy and trust.

Personal data is used by many retailers to improve customer experiences and hence sales, through more tailored products or better service. Innovate UK is investing up to £2 million looking at ways to improve user experience in the digital economy.

In addition, companies such as Cisco are working with retailers to implement Internet of Everything solutions that use data to target consumers.

"As consumers continue to rely on digital every day, the need to improve the sharing of personal data with organisations is essential to ensure the improvement and development of new digital services," said Steven Cox, Executive Director, Public Sector in UK & Ireland at Fujitsu.

He adds: "More needs to be done therefore, across all industries, to encourage consumers to share their data where it is appropriate to do so.

However, the difficulties in balancing privacy and convenience is gaining an increasing presence in popular consciousness.

Andy Piper, CTO of data distribution solution provider Push Technology, argues that it is important that customisation is based on an opt-in and a process of transparency.

He told CBR that "people are aware of the risks (of giving up data) but also that they may be getting something for the privilege. If people are given the right info, they can make an informed decision."

According to Andrew Carr, commercial director at the Digital Catapult, consumers will see the major benefits of personal data sharing when different industries are able to share data between them.

"The bad news is that distrust can put the brakes on reaching the full value of shared personal data," wrote Digital Catapult CEO Neil Crockett in the report. "The good news is that we are on the cusp of developing new products and services that will change the way individuals control their personal data and allow it to be shared.

The study surveyed 4,005 consumers aged 18-64 complete an online survey during Q1 2015.

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