Report: Brands failing consumers on privacy

This year’s Deloitte report on consumer brands and privacy compares consent practices and data usage and finds brands need to improve their practices

None of Australia’s top 100 consumer brands meet consent best practices for cookie management, according to the Deloitte Privacy Index 2020.

The index compares how brands obtain consumer consent for using their data, for marketing and other purposes, against consumers expectations. It found many Australian brands are missing the mark, with financial services and telco brands among the worst.

Now in its sixth year, the privacy survey has found meaningful consent should be front and centre for every industry and every sector. However, just 16 per cent of brands offer consumers the option to opt-in to marketing activities. And a whopping 83 per cent of consumers said they are concerned by internet cookies that track their activity online for use in marketing or to sell information on to third parties. Deloitte said this highlights the vast difference between consumer expectations and industry consent practices.

Deloitte national privacy and data protection lead partner and author of this index, David Batch, said that while meaningful consent and permission are intrinsically personal, its research overwhelmingly demonstrates a disconnect between what consumers expect and what brands actually do.

“No one wants to give consent through constant pop-ups,” Batch said. “Nor does a consumer consider consent is given when driven through a catch-all, non-specific privacy notice. The key is in empowering people to choose if, when and how they participate.”

The privacy index focuses on a different privacy element each year and isn’t a year-on-year comparison. By focusing on consent practices in the 2020 index, sector rankings have shifted. The overall industry analysis found that no industry scored above 30 per cent when its consent practices were tested, which demonstrates industry-wide improvements are needed together but this requires tighter regulatory frameworks.

The 2020 Deloitte Privacy Index rankings top 10

  1. Retail
  2. Government
  3. IT
  4. Travel & transport
  5. Real estate
  6. Education & employment
  7. Energy & utilities
  8. Telcos & media
  9. Financial services
  10. Health & fitness

“Gaining meaningful consent from consumers, within current legal and technical constraints, isn’t easy,” noted Batch.

“Striking the balance between optimal user experience and obtaining meaningful consent differs across platforms and use cases. Across industry we have seen a lack of maturity in the consent space, such that any updates to Australian law would require significant industry changes and uplift."

For this year’s index, Roy Morgan Research surveyed more than 1000 Australian consumers aged 18 and above about their personal consent-giving practices when interacting with apps and websites, and what constitutes meaningful consent to them. This was compared with analysis of the websites and mobile applications of Australia’s top 100 consumer brands, examining the consent behaviours and attributes of their websites and apps as well as sector level breach and complaints data published by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The results were scored and aggregated across 10 industry types to rank each industry to create the Index.

At a time of COVID-19 when consumers are facing the digital realities of pandemic restrictions, consumers have become far more aware of the need to secure our privacy. And obtaining consent in the right way is critical to building consumer trust, Batch noted.

He said meaningful consent is the real opportunity for brands in COVID-19 and beyond, and every organisation that accesses and processes personal information has a role in increasing trust in the digital economy.”

“Australians have overwhelmingly told us they don’t like being marketed to without opting in, or bundled consent, which couples something we do want with something we don’t, especially when it is unnecessary.

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