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August 3, 2015

Consumer rebellion casts shadow on Big Data future

Is this a potential doomsday for Big Data as 18-24 refuse to share data in favour of privacy?

By James Nunns

The vast majority of consumers that are using catch up services are unwilling to allow media companies to share personal data with a third party.

While advertisers seek greater access to customer data in order to refine campaigns, it looks as though they will have to do without the data of 18-24 year olds.

According to a KPMG survey, 97% of 18-24 year olds refuse to allow their details to be passed on, regardless of the benefits being offered in return.

Curiously, this goes against the popular assumption that the younger generation is comfortable in sharing their data.

David Elms, Head of Media at KMPG, said: "Generation Z places a high price on privacy, and while some personalisation may be welcome to improve their viewing experience, they are not prepared to readily offer up their data.

"There has been increasing discussion of the use of consumer data for higher levels of personalisation particularly around advertising but this survey highlights that most consumers would resist the use of their data for such purposes."

The decision of this age group to be strongly unwilling to share their data could paint a concerning picture for advertisers and potentially Big Data users in the future.

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As noted in the CBR list Big Data doomsday: 5 issues that could ruin it all, the concerns over data ownership could potentially see consumers reject the proposal of data sharing, could result in the Big Data market being significantly damaged.

Some action is being taken by regulatory firms such as the Internet Advertising Bureau, which is part of the ‘Your Online Choices’, who already offer an opt out service for consumers.

The platform allows consumers to see how they are being tracked and gives them the choice to opt out.

Yves Schwarzbart, Regulatory Affairs Manager, IAB, told CBR: "It’s an attempt to have a global framework in place. Based on the idea that people should be given information transparency on how their data is being used and subsequently given an opt-out choice."

Although this is a good step for helping consumers to control their data, it is currently based on an opt-in framework for advertisers and companies, so it is far from universally reaching at this current point in time.

One of the issues according to Schwarzbart is that advertisers need to better communicate to users and consumers what is happening with their data.

"There is always room for improvement where it comes to telling users and consumers what’s happening to their data, why it’s happening and what it’s used for. Collectively we can still do a better job."

Schwarzbart expects that when people are made aware of how data is being used and how it benefits them, then few people will decide to opt-out of data sharing. This is in contrast to the KPMG report which suggests that the majority would reject data sharing regardless of the benefits.

If this rejection of data sharing and data use becomes widespread then companies will need to be careful as to the how they use consumer data. As if permission isn’t given it could raise legal concerns.

Mark Gleeson, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told CBR: "While the KPMG report provides an important reminder to companies using collecting and utilising consumer data, it also raises a vast number of legal questions on the use of big data going forward. Companies will have to consider what steps are necessary to reap the benefits of such innovation while also protecting data privacy and security.

"It also raises the question of how prepared companies are for the incoming General Data Protection Regulation, which will provide even more strenuous regulation on how data can be collected and what penalties are imposed on their improper usage. Planning is the key element to ensuring that they meet their legal obligations and have proper safeguards in place.

"We are seeing large fines imposed by regulators on companies who do not properly handle data as well as personal damages being sought in some cases through the courts. With the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things as well as a number of recent high-profile cyber hacks, data privacy will be evermore in the limelight and companies need to be especially rigorous in how they process and protect consumer data."

The report additionally identified that in the 1,500 households question, the majority (66%) were in favour of net neutrality, believing that all Internet traffic should be treated the same.

Elms questions whether this view would change though if they began to struggle to access their content. "If faced with an environment where internet speeds were being heavily impacted by the sheer volume of content being downloaded, I wonder if this view would shift as consumers increasingly struggled to access their content.

"It could be that in this scenario we see more support for a tiered internet, but at the moment consumers seem to be resoundingly in support of net neutrality."

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