Corporate reputation, ethics, transparency and control vital to digital data exchange

Fresh Ipsos report looks at consumer relationship with companies and media organisations sharing data in the digital realm and how they really think about privacy of information

Sound and ethical corporate values, transparency and giving control back are all key to building consumer confidence around the way their personal data is used in digitally, a new report has highlighted.

The latest Ipsos Digital Data Exchange: The Consumer View report was unveiled today at this week’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia Measure-up conference and is based on a survey of 1000 Australian adults conducted in October. The ambition was to quantify understanding of the Australian consumers’ relationship with funding of media services and the value of data exchange in the digital realm.

A range of findings were presented by Ipsos director, Kirsten Riolo. At a top-line level, 52 per cent of respondents agreed data privacy is extremely important to them, while 33 per cent said it’s somewhat important when choosing online services they interact with.

As to what consumer data privacy means, leading the list is information being kept private and confidential (26 per cent), followed by being kept safe (15 per cent). Two elements are at play here, said Riolo.

“Firstly, it’s about security and governance – that is, consumers see it as a set of regulations that need to be in place for a company, organisational or government level and they need to adhere in a way that protects any information collected and stored about them and their activities,” she said. “But it’s also about impact and the result of this governance. Firstly it has to be in place, secondly, working sufficiently enough to do its job.

“Consumers want to know my data is safe, ensure privacy and protection is in place against hacking, which people hear about on a constant basis, and they want to make sure data is being used in ways they have actually consented to.”

The Ipsos report also made clear consumers want more control. Just over eight in 10 (81 per cent) stated they want more control and choice over the collection and use of their personal information, and 46 per cent wanted companies to stop sharing their information with third parties without consent as a high priority. 

Against this, only three in 10 think their knowledge of data protection and privacy is of a high standard.

“While this might seem alarming, it does create opportunity to develop ways for more engagement and education of consumers about the protection, what it means in their online world,” Riolo commented.

Commonly, consumers are taking matters into their own hands. Ipsos found this is happening at a technical level, through actions such as clearing browser and search history (42 per cent) or using ad blockers or using privacy-first Web search engines (31 per cent). Consumers are also exercising their right to choose – to not choose the app or website that asks for personal information (39 per cent).

“They’re even turning to online businesses and asking, why do you need my data, sending info forward to get more clarity,” Riolo continued. At a less technical level, consumers are also providing false information and even switching off smartphones and devices to avoid all contact (30 per cent).

So what can businesses do about it? Riolo said the first big step in achieving transparency is providing easy-to-understand details on what how, what and with whom data is shared. Giving control through regular consent is another must, along with standardisation of opt-in messages and by providing incentives.

“It’s also about being upfront in sharing about data and only passing on the bare requirements to other parties,” she said.  

In addition, businesses can increase confidence around information dissemination by having sound corporate values. Four in 10 respondents said a company’s corporate reputation influences their trust in their data governance practices, and 39 per cent noted ethical practices helping here.

“Having a role to play, being reliable, dependable and ethical at a brand level is seen to engender trust and it also provides this through consistent transactional experiences to the consumer. These are all super important when it comes to providing a sound platform for engagement and exchange of any kind of experience with a consumer,” Riolo said.

Understanding consumer knowledge

Ipsos also sought to understand the extent to which consumers know they are monitored. Eight in 10 said they were aware their usage and activities are being tracked in some way. Through qualitative interviews, Ipsos reported many seeing this as an accepted norm that can be annoying and at times, scary.

For instance, when presented with pop-up messages on websites and apps about that content provider using cookies or other tracking techniques and requesting consent to track their activity, 63 per cent of consumers are evaluating these before deciding to accept or not.

With regards to cookies specifically, most respondents were found to have some understanding, but only 14 per cent felt they fully understood how cookies worked.

“Acceptance is based on really careful consideration – six in 10 are evaluating interactions with pop-ups, 15 per cent are actively avoiding them and leaving pages they land on or installing blockers to ensure they are not tracked,” Riolo said. “And while we know it’s happening, constant reminders can be very unnerving.”

As a result, there are plenty of consumers unlikely to accept these when they come up or will shut down pages when messages appear, Riolo said. For example, 38 per cent of respondents said they would leave an app or website based on frequency of privacy messaging.

There is a flip side to this, however. Some consumers agreed these tracking technologies have useful benefits such as enabling them to better screen sites into areas of interest, through bookmarking, targeting, seeing content they like to see and being able to visit favourite sites on regular basis. Consistency and convenience also shone through the findings as a positive outcome from data usage digitally.

In terms of the data consumers are happy sharing, information of transactional nature is more acceptable in minds of users than data connected to financial information, detailed health or medical information.

Ipsos also looked at what consumers expect to get in return for sharing information. “Interestingly, current perception is polarised,” Riolo said.

“Half of online users believe they are getting quite a fair deal versus those who do not. Those not seeing value tend to be older and in single person households. Those seeing value were younger, women and people who were married.”

Another standout finding for the industry is that seven in 10 users are relatively unaware of how online content providers are making money.

“Putting this in context, eight in 10 know they are being tracked and they are aware of macro landscape but don’t have good sense of how it converts to full and useful commercial gain,” Riolo said.

As to what consumers value in exchange for their information, discount, rewards, free products and services were positively regarded ahead of personalisation.

“It’s interesting to see this in landscape of people who want personalisation, as they are putting financial or monetary gains, they would put ahead of that,” Riolo said.  

For Riolo, the findings reinforce consumers really need to be empowered when they’re traversing the digital landscape. They want control and to make choice themselves about how and when data is collected.

“Stakeholders can benefit from informing and clearly communicating the value of content and the role advertising plays in contributing to free digital content and services they regularly use and like,” she advised. “Businesses also have a role to play in providing transparency around practices, in sharing data with third parties and in communicating value to consumers when doing so.

“And demonstrating sound corporate values which results in consistent user experience is key to trust and underpins that data experience.”  

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