Horse bolting_crop

NEWS5 July 2018

Low trust and high disengagement from data collection issues

Data analytics GDPR News Privacy Trends UK

UK – More than a third ( 35%) of the population are tolerant to personal data collection but almost a quarter ( 23%) worry about the data collected on them, according to research from Which? and BritainThinks.

The Control, Alt or Delete? report from Which? and BritainThinks shares insight from their consumer research on people’s attitudes to data collection and use.

The research involved 2391 nationally representative telephone interviews and qualitative research including deliberative workshops to see how people’s attitudes to their data sharing changed when they were given more detailed and balanced information on how their data was used.

Researchers first identified how people felt about data collection ‘at rest’ i.e. what their starting point was. They segmented people into 12 camps which cover four attitudes – tolerant, concerned, anxious and liberal – and five behaviour types – activist, casual, protector, browser and maximiser – varying depending on how protective or permissive they are about their data.

Nine in 10 ( 91%) of people are online every day, using various data-dependent products and services. For example, 75% use online maps, 67% use social media, 64% use apps and 53% streaming services.

The report identified four key insights based on the deliberative research:

  • The benefits of data collection are more tangible than the downsides; consumers are primed to accept it
  •  But this starting point is based on an incomplete picture of what is happening to their data; when consumers learn more their concern grows
  • People judge the acceptability of data collection and use based on its impact
  • But concerns about data collection and use don’t translate into action.

Cordelia Hay, one of the researchers from BritainThinks said: “When consumers learn more, their concern grows across all segments. Many people are filling the void [of knowledge] with myths such as your device is listening to you.”

The key things that made people change their opinion were: data profiling; data sharing; inferences and tailoring information. So, for instance, people knew their data was being shared but didn’t know about the role of data brokers or that the inferences being made might be about more sensitive things such as their sexuality or ethnicity. They were also unaware of just how much they were operating in a filter bubble online.

The study found that there were four criteria on whether data collection had a positive impact on them: control, relevance, potential benefits and potential harms.

BritainThinks’ Max Templer said: “It’s really hard to judge potential harms if you don’t know much about it.”

But, in the main, any concerns don’t translate into action. “It’s not a practical option to give up those benefits e.g. Google maps. There are no viable alternatives and they’re seen as integral to people’s lives.”

Overall there was a sense that the horse had bolted – people had low levels of trust in how their data was being used but didn’t feel they could do anything about it so disengaged from it.