Consumers say they want much more control over their personal data

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Two-thirds of US adults want government to pass laws that provide them with “greater privacy, security and control of their personal data.” That’s according to a new survey from Janrain, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. consumers.

Consumers say they want much more control over their personal data

The company is leading with a finding around consumer willingness to forgive data breaches. The survey found that 46 percent of consumers were willing to forgive a company that was a “victim of a data security breach,” if that company immediately notified them. Another 42 percent would “possibly” be willing to forgive.

However the bulk of the results show that consumers are clearly ambivalent about the companies they interact with, especially online, and the majority want much more control over their data.

80 percent only want to buy from trusted companies. Nearly 80 percent (78 percent) of respondents said that they only wanted to buy from companies they trusted to protect their personal data. However, 49 percent who fall into this category don’t fully trust the companies they deal with. The survey didn’t explore sources of mistrust or the criteria involved in gaining consumers’ compete trust.

Of 12 business categories presented (traditional and digital) in the survey, “Internet companies like Google or Facebook” were the least trusted, followed by restaurants and hotels. Online stores “like Amazon” came out far better in the ranking. Indeed, other survey data confirm Amazon has a high degree of trust among consumers.

Categories of personal data consumers were most concerned about keeping private or secure were:

  1. Financial data — 43.6 percent.
  2. Account passwords — 26.3 percent.
  3. My private conversations — 8.7 percent.
  4. Medical history — 5.2 percent.
  5. My web browsing habits — 3.4 percent.
  6. My Netflix viewing habits — 1.2 percent.

Majority will exchange personal data for value with limits. Asked about allowing companies to use their personal data, the majority of survey respondents (55 percent) said that they were willing to “let companies I trust use SOME of my personal data for specific purposes that benefit me in clear ways.” There are a lot of qualifiers in that sentence.

Beyond this, 36 percent said, “I wouldn’t let any company use my personal data.” Roughly 7 percent were unsure and only 3 percent said they’d allow companies to freely use their personal data to create a better experience.

The message is clear. A substantial number of consumers will exchange their personal data if properly incentivized and given assurances about limits around its uses. But from another perspective, the overwhelming majority of these survey respondents want to have control and be able to say no to companies about use of their data.

There were some indications in the data that this audience may be somewhat more sophisticated or privacy sensitive than the general population. In response to the question, “Are you currently using software that blocks ads, protects your data privacy or otherwise helps you control your web experience?” 71 percent said yes.

What marketers need to know. In the future brands, publishers and marketers will need to not take user data for granted or expect simply to exact it as the price of visiting a website or accessing a deal. Consumers appear increasingly ambivalent about giving their data away. Trusted, transparent brands will be in a much stronger position long-term compared with those that are more opaque about data.