U.S. consumers becoming more open to sharing data—is it wise?

by | Jul 16, 2018 | Marketing, Public Relations

Despite the Cambridge Analytica incident and other privacy concerns, new research from marketing data foundation firm Acxiom, in partnership with the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), finds U.S. consumers are becoming more open to engaging in data exchanges in return for better offers and services.

The joint study, Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks, discovered nearly half of consumers (44 percent) in the U.S. feel more comfortable with data exchange than they did previously, rising to 54 percent among millennials. While almost two-thirds of consumers (62 percent) believe that sharing data is part of the modern economy, the study also revealed trust and transparency are top priorities for consumers when it comes to data exchange.

“An overwhelming shift in attitudes is underway as more and more consumers gain awareness and an understanding of the role data exchange plays in contemporary society,” said Sheila Colclasure, Acxiom’s global chief data ethics officer and public policy executive, in a news release. “This survey shows that people are increasingly aware of the role data plays in our lives and are becoming more conscious of the decisions they make in exchanging data for value.”

A nation of “data pragmatists”

The survey found that consumers defined as “data pragmatists”—those open to engaging in data exchanges with businesses if the benefits received in return for their personal information are clear—comprise the largest consumer segment in the U.S. across demographics (58 percent). In addition, nearly one in five consumers in the U.S. is “unconcerned” about the collection and usage of their personal data. This sentiment is particularly true among younger demographics, with a quarter of millennials and 31 percent of 18-24 year olds falling into this category.

Overall, Americans show one of the highest degrees of comfort with data sharing in contrast to other countries, such as Spain and France, where only a third of respondents indicate they feel more comfortable with data exchange than they did previously.

“This report also clearly demonstrates the need for providing consumers with increased transparency and control, a key element of an ethical approach to data use,” Colclasure added. “We’re proud to partner with the DMA today, as we have for nearly 50 years, and to continue to work with the world’s largest brands to provide consumers with data-driven experiences grounded in ethical data practices.”

Findings from the report are a telling indicator of consumers’ perceptions of the value of data sharing

This is an important consideration for marketers in the days following the implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Alongside a growing comfort with sharing personal information with companies, particularly among younger demographics, almost two-thirds of U.S. consumers say they feel more aware of how their data is used and collected than in the past. Forty-three percent of those surveyed believe that responsibility for data security lies with consumers, while only six percent of Americans believe that brands or government institutions should bear this responsibility. Thirty-seven percent of Americans believe a combination of consumers, brands and government should be responsible for data security.

For 54 percent of consumers, trust in an organization was ranked as the most important factor influencing their willingness to share their personal data

More than four in five respondents found it important that businesses be transparent about the collection and usage of data, provide easy-to-understand terms and conditions, and show a clear link between the data shared and benefits received.

“Responsible marketers are interested in acting ethically and nurturing customer trust. This is all the more reason for the industry to come together and ensure we’re operating in an environment that drives value to customers,” added DMA chief executive officer Tom Benton, in the release. “With a steady eye toward security and responsibility and customer relationships that are based on trust, our data-driven future will be bright.”

The study was conducted via an online survey of 2,076 respondents aged 18 and older in November 2017.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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