Few consumers trust businesses to keep their info secure

18 October 2018 Consulting.us 4 min. read

Only 8% of consumers strongly agree that they trust businesses to keep their personal information safe, according to a recent survey commissioned by IT consulting firm NTT DATA.

In the past number of years, citizens have been constantly reminded that (a) their personal data is being harvested and (b) that data is probably not very secure. The Snowden NSA leaks and the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal revealed that state and non-state actors are collecting data to a worrying and sometimes illegal degree – overstepping the constitution, data laws, and ‘terms of service’ in the process.

Meanwhile, cyberattackers are continuously penetrating firms to steal customers’ personal information, including credit cards, names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Some of the most high-profile breaches include Home Depot in 2014 (53 million users compromised), Yahoo in 2016 (3 billion users), and Equifax in 2017 (145 million users).

In response to growing concerns over how corporations collect data, the European Union brought in the landmark GDPR regulations to allow for consumers to opt-in or out of data collection. The big tech firms immediately had to update privacy policies and revamp their terms and conditions, while the ad-tech industry was sent scrambling for survival. More regulation is forthcoming, with California passing its own privacy law and the EU considering its next steps.

Caught in the crosshairs of data breaches and businesses that want to use and sell their information – tracking clicks, physical location and movements, and everything you say (if you have an Amazon Echo or by some accounts, an iPhone) – it’s little wonder that consumers are a little uncomfortable about the whole affair.

“The global regulatory environment continues to tighten and public perception of data sharing becomes more negative. We’ve reached a tipping point in 2018 where both businesses and consumers are scrambling to prepare for the changes that lie ahead,” said Eric Clark, Chief Digital Officer, NTT DATA Services. “Following the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelation, the GDPR implementation and data breaches in the news practically every week, 2018 has been a watershed year that will force companies to allow consumers to take ownership of their data and choose where and how it is shared.”Execs see great days aheadWhile business executives can speak about unlocking the potential of their businesses with advanced analytics and big data, the benefits are a little harder to sell to consumers. Many people don’t necessarily want better-targeted ads or some customized customer experience at the cost of all their data being harvested and then sitting around for a hacker to steal. But that’s the cost of using Facebook or Google products – they’re free, but you’re being sold (or at least your data).

According to a recent survey from Oxford Economics commissioned by IT consultancy NTT DATA Services, business execs are much more enthusiastic than consumers about the impact of big data and analytics. 97% of executives surveyed replied that it will be good for businesses, and 87% said it will be good for consumers and society overall. In contrast, 65% of consumers said big data will change businesses for the better, while just over 40% believed that it will have a positive impact on consumers and society overall.

The research, which queried 5,000 consumers in 15 countries, shows that only 8% of consumers strongly agree that they trust businesses to keep their personal information safe. As such, consumers don’t hold much trust in the companies with which they share their data, be it personal info, purchase history, or web-browsing habits. 


Which industries do you think are best at protecting consumer information

This viewpoint is not all that controversial, and the surveyed consumers were concerned even before the Facebook data breach in September that exposed 50 million user accounts. News headlines have some sort of massive data breach every few months as enterprise IT engineers battle malicious attackers in a never-ending cyber war.

Indeed, 93% of executives surveyed in the Oxford Economics/NTT DATA report said their company had experienced a breach in the past three years. Meanwhile, companies seem to be putting customer data protection second: about 80% said they have strong or superior protections in place for their own operational and financial data, but are less vigilant with consumers’ personal (42%) and financial (33%) data.

Consumers, however, trust some industries more than others with their information. 53% deemed banking/financial services the best at protecting consumer information, while 32% chose the healthcare industry and 24% chose government. Media and entertainment ranked last, at 3%.