Dicing with data: Proportion of consumers ‘very concerned’ over sharing data online halves in two years

Just one in four (24%) UK consumers are ‘very concerned’ over companies they interact with online using their personal data, down from 47% who said this in 2018, according to new findings from Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends 2020 report.

Deloitte’s research, surveying the digital attitudes of 4,150 respondents between the ages of 16 and 75, shows that the majority of consumers are proactively managing online privacy risks. Four in five (81%) have taken some action due to data privacy concerns in the past year, while 40% have deleted an app and 43% have removed their browser history over the past 12-months due to privacy concerns. 

However, as consumers give away more data than ever before, many are seemingly unaware of the instances where they are sharing their personal information online. Only 40% of phone owners say that they have shared their mobile number online, despite this being the main identifier on some of the most popular messaging platforms.

Further, 61% consumers say they have shared their email address with organisations online, while 59% say they have shared their name and 42% say they have shared their location or location information. 

Nick Seeber, partner and internet media regulation lead at Deloitte, said: "More than two years since GDPR came into force, it’s promising that consumer confidence over data privacy has grown, with many now proactively managing their online security. But there is an uncomfortable truth that most consumers are simply unaware of the amount of data they are handing over when interacting with brands online. Brands bear a heavy responsibility to protect the privacy and security of their customers by clearly communicating what data they are collecting and how this is being used for the customers’ benefit. Those that don't may not see repercussions in the short term, but in the long term leave themselves vulnerable to scrutiny as consumers grow savvy to the sheer scale of the personal data brands have been stockpiling.”

New devices will turn up the dial on data vulnerabilities

The launch and uptake of new technologies are likely to lead to an even sharper rise in the amount of data consumers share with brands. According to Deloitte research, ownership of smart watches and fitness bands have registered the highest growth rate in last five years of any digital device in the UK - 22% of consumers now own a fitness band, up from 9% in 2016. Smart watch ownership has risen from 4% to 13% in the same time frame.

Despite this boom in device ownership, the proportion of consumers agreeing that they share the health metrics collected by their smartphone of wearable device has remained steady at 6% between 2016 and 2020.

Claire Jolly, partner and head of TMT in the North West at Deloitte, said: “New generations of technology will turn up the dial on the scale of the data consumers give away online, as well as the sensitivity of the data being collected. Smart watches can now capture heart rate, heart rhythms and blood oxygenation levels. Meanwhile, automated vacuum cleaners can capture a map of a home and smart light lightbulbs can detect every time a person enters the room. This will present new privacy and security concerns for consumers that lack a solid understanding of the information they are sharing. Brands must work to help build trust with their consumers by growing their understanding of the data they are collecting.”

Terms and conditions fail to apply for 81% of consumers who rarely read these before accepting

Overall, 74% of consumers are concerned over how the companies they are interacting with online are using their data. However, 25% agree that the benefits they get from interacting with companies online outweigh their data privacy concerns and 81% of consumers rarely, if ever, read terms and conditions before accepting them.

However, with a better understanding of how to maintain privacy and security online, many consumers may be sparked into action. Three in five (61%) consumers say they would like to restrict access to some of their data but don’t know how to. 

Peter Gooch, cyber risk partner at Deloitte, said: “The introduction of GDPR in 2018 was the biggest overhaul of UK data protection rules in over 20 years. For many consumers, the exercise of ‘re-consenting’ to marketing material in its lead up heightened awareness on the use of their personal data like never before. Two years on, companies continue to take steps to improve compliance, and it is positive to see their efforts reflected in greater consumer confidence. With trust and transparency of increasing importance to the emerging ethically ‘conscious’ consumer, ensuring a robust understanding of data use will be key in achieving this.”

About the survey

This research is based on the UK cut of Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends Survey, a multi-country study of mobile phone users around the world. The 2020 study comprises approximately 36,150 respondents across 23 countries and five continents.

Data cited in this report are based on a nationally representative sample of 4,150 UK consumers aged 16-75. The sample follows a country specific quota on age, gender, region and socio-economic status. Fieldwork took place during the first three weeks of May 2020 and was carried out online by Ipsos MORI, an independent research firm, based on a question set provided by Deloitte.

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