The data privacy paradox: how brands can use data to navigate contradicting consumer expectations

A new study has identified a lack of consistency between consumer desires for brands’ use of their data and their willingness to share personal information online.

Research has uncovered a disconnect between brands’ personalisation efforts and what consumers want and expect in terms of how their data is used, with just 25% of consumers stating they are comfortable that their data is private.

A survey of 1,600 consumers from media company Razorfish identified a desire among consumers to take back control of their data ownership and an increased level of trepidation surrounding how they share personal information online.

Data revealed that half of the respondents block ongoing emails, 41% implement two-factor authentication, 45% prevent apps from accessing their location and 47% change their passwords.

Razorfish concluded that this weariness may be related to a heightened sense of concern, the adoption of tools that protect privacy or a general frustration among consumers who feel they are being bombarded with irrelevant information from brands.

The privacy paradox

The data however suggests a paradox between consumers, with many citing a level of discomfort sharing personally identifiable information and yet, doing it every day.

More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents said they are uncomfortable with their face scans being collected and 71% said they’re uncomfortable with companies collecting photos of them. But, a study from Statista showed that 62% of US adults have uploaded a “selfie” to a social media platform.

Eddie Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer at Razorfish, said: “With a mission of connecting brand purpose to business performance, this study showcases how people want personalised experiences without putting their data at risk. But we’ve learned that the tradeoff creates a bit of a paradox.

“Though consumers are wary of data-sharing, they’re still expecting authentic and personalised content that shows their favourite brands care about, and listen to, their audiences in a safe, transparent way.”

What’s become important for brands is to ensure their purpose aligns with their consumers’ values,according to the research. Over half (56%) of respondents said they are more likely to give their personal data to organisations that align with their values or have a larger purpose beyond profits.

Building trust and consumer contradiction

Understanding how to best build trust is challenging for marketers as Razorfish found some contradictions in consumer sentiment.

When asked how much they would trust or distrust their data with organisations across industries, the two that have seen the most cybersecurity incidents – healthcare and banks – were “somewhat trusted” or “trusted a lot” by 56% of people.

Conversely, social media companies face the most distrust (68%), followed by crypto companies (63%), two areas where consumers willingly choose to share personal information.

What was found to be most detrimental for businesses was data sharing without authorisation, with half of those surveyed claiming they would never do business with a company again if their data was shared without consent.

Businesses should be careful with the channels they use for data collection, with trust in devices (29%) being higher than trust in government (22%), tech platforms (16%) and brands (13%). Personalisation merits consideration too, as it’s found to be ‘creepy’ by 21% of people, but only 19% are disappointed with its results.

Razorfish identified several strategies for brands to consider to overcome the disconnect in consumer expectations.

1. Take control of your first-party data: maintaining data quality and identifying gaps in your collection plan is key;

2. Be transparent about how and why data is collected: develop a policy, obtain consent and allow users to access and delete their data;

3. Be purposeful with how you use customer data: brands can use customer data to create valuable experiences in a variety of ways, such as product development and proactive communications;

4. Take credit for your achievements:data privacy takes investment and commitment, so don’t be shy about showing your work.