18th June 2012
Legal moves on internet privacy highlight rising tension between control and convenience
The introduction of new laws governing the collection of personal data online has highlighted an emerging trend for consumers to regard personal information as a powerful new currency, according to the latest Intersperience research.
It has become an increasingly hot issue following the introduction of a new European law on May 26 governing the use of ‘cookies’ (text files used to collect details of visitors to websites). Organisations use the data to identify customers’ preferences and to tailor marketing efforts accordingly.
Until now, consumers were relatively unaware of ‘cookies’ but the new law has resulted in cookie disclosure declarations appearing on many websites, enabling the public to make an informed decision on the collection and use of their personal data for the first time.
The data privacy debate has intensified as a result of claims that Google’s ‘Street View’ cars allegedly harvested large amounts of personal information from millions of private UK home Wi-Fi networks.
Reports that both Google and Apple are also now deploying powerful ‘spy planes’ to produce highly detailed 3D aerial maps of the UK have added to the controversy over the collection of personal data without consent.
Monetisation of personal data is an even more controversial issue. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt once famously declared: “The Google policy...is to get right up the creepy line and not cross it.”
Intersperience’s Open Ideas Event in London asked delegates representing some of the biggest consumer brands to vote on whether personal data will become a new currency in the future. An over-riding majority said that it would, with several commenting that it has already happened.
The vote is backed up by more in-depth Intersperience research which showed that UK consumers are already alert to the value of their personal data and that under-25s are particularly smart on data disclosure.
Around one-third of under-25s do not like to give personal data to websites and 32% would not use websites which ask for personal details. However, younger consumers are smart about the value of their data with 20% willing to trade data for something in return. The proviso is that they feel no compunction to tell the truth - 22% said they would give false personal details.
Consumers are generally conflicted over the pros and cons of disclosing personal data and often feel forced into a compromise. They are keen to retain control of information about their lifestyles and preferences for their own personal benefit: for example, to access favourite programmes versus services such as Sky Anytime Plus.
However, they see the benefit of allowing data to be used by the likes of Amazon; which can use it in a beneficial and convenient way to make recommendation or special offers. The price of convenience is, however, leaving a personal trail.
Every day, consumers have to make a new call on who controls their data and increasingly they want to make informed decisions and to receive tangible benefits in return for ceding control.Intersperience research indicates that a trend for monetisation of personal data is clearly underway in the UK and consumers are increasingly likely to demand a share of the spoils. We predict that the organisations that will emerge as future winners will be those with a transparent mechanism to involve the consumer in the decision-making process.