Survey: Chasm exists between brands and consumers on data privacy

Dismissed by many digerati several years ago, privacy has come roaring back as an existential challenge for online publishers and digital marketers. Recent privacy-related surveys from Forrester research capture an alarming chasm between enterprise marketers and consumers on the subject.

Consumers in the US and Europe are increasingly concerned about how their data are being used online and trust fewer and fewer brands. By contrast, Forrester finds lax enterprise standards and a “cavalier attitude” about data collection by brand marketers. In a European context, this is playing with fire given the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy regulations and associated penalties.

The consumer data are from a survey (or surveys) of more than 50,000 adults. The enterprise data are from a mix of Forrester surveys conducted in 2017. The firm doesn’t segment the data by geography in the report presenting these findings.

Here are some of the specific takeaways and high-level data points illustrating the gap between consumers and enterprises on privacy:

  • Sixty-one percent of US adults expressed concern about the sharing of their data or online behaviors between companies.
  • Increasing numbers of consumers block ads (33 percent) and use browser do-not-track settings (25 percent).
  • Among 19 companies on a list that included “tech giants such as Apple and Google,” 35 percent of US online adults and 45 percent of European online adults said that they “don’t trust any” to safeguard their data.
  • Ninety-one percent of enterprises marketing to consumers said increasing use of data is a priority; only 71 percent said privacy protection was similarly a priority.
  • In a small enterprise survey, “… only eight of the 17 respondents said that they have technical and procedural controls in place to protect against the use of customers’ data in ways that fall outside their privacy policies.”

Forrester points to IBM and Home Depot as two organizations with best-in-class privacy disclosures and tools.

In contrast to the above, in an online survey of 1,500 US adults, messaging app Viber found that a majority aren’t highly concerned about privacy in the context of messaging. They also made the (perhaps naive) assumption that messages are not read by other than the intended recipient. However, 55 percent said they “would stop using a messaging or social app if they knew their message could be read or analyzed by advertisers, political managers or government officials.”

While context and the framing of survey questions influence answers, it’s safe to say that online data privacy is a significant concern for majorities in the US, and certainly Europe. Companies that fail to take privacy and data security sufficiently seriously now do so at their own “political” and regulatory peril.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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