Privacy-privy consumers don’t mind some data sharing – with companies they trust

Millennials less likely to understand the implicit terms of the deal – and older citizens are less likely to play along

Older Australians understand the role of sharing personal data in today’s Internet economy better than millennials and are less comfortable with exchanging personal data with companies as a result, according to new research designed to gauge changing attitudes towards data privacy.

Some 42 percent of millennials responding to the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA)’s Consumer Attitudes to Privacy in Australia report – released to coincide with this week’s Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) said they were more comfortable with the idea of exchanging some personal data with companies than they were previously. This was more than the 35 percent figure for baby boomers, highlighting the growing lack of comfort with data sharing amongst older Australians.

Yet those same older Australians seemed to be making a conscious choice against oversharing: fully 64 percent of those aged 45 to 64 agreed that sharing data and personal information online is part of the modern economy – well ahead of the 54 percent figure amongst 18 to 34 year olds.

The online culture of casual and formal data sharing has become a flashpoint for privacy advocates as the world prepares for increased scrutiny of the handling of private data with the introduction of the European Union’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) on May 25.

Recent surveys of private data handling have not painted a complimentary picture, with one recent scan of open web, FTP and other sites finding more than 3 billion personal data records available for exploitation.

Some 40 percent of those data included personally identifiable information (PII) attributes – potentially providing fodder for identity theft – but the ADMA report found variability in what types of information is considered to be personal: nearly half of respondents don’t think that basic contact details constitute PII.

That may constitute a subtle difference for many, however. Media reports about prominent breaches – which recently included the breaches of 3 million Facebook accounts in a follow-on to the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal; the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s loss of account information on 20 million Australians; and the 150 million-user MyFitnessPal account compromise – have heightened Australians’ awareness of the true extent of poor privacy practices, according to the ADMA report, which flagged the need for a concerted an ongoing education campaign to better inform citizens about striking the right balance between privacy and data sharing.

“Despite their high demands for their right to privacy the prominence of data sharing activity in modern life is leading to growing pragmatism towards data-exchange,” the report’s authors concluded, noting that 61 percent of survey respondents said they were more aware of how their data is used and collected than in the past.

Marketers “play a pivotal role in the safe keeping of your consumer data and as such as under intense scrutiny when it comes to your ethical data use policies,” Esther Carlsen, managing director of report sponsor Acxiom Australia, wrote in introducing the report.

Consumers, she advised companies collecting and storing user data, “want you to earn their trust, they want to feel empowered and most of all, they want you to inform and assure them that you are treating their data with the care it deserves.”

Yet the report also identified a degree of scepticism about data exchange. Baby boomers were significantly more concerned about online privacy issues, with 45 percent of respondents in that demographic rating their concern as a 9 or 10 – compared with just 23 percent of millennials.

Such older ‘Data Fundamentalists’, as ADMA calls them, pose challenges for marketers that are increasingly working to build consumer trust – the factor that 55 percent of respondents said is a key reason that would make them happy to share personal information with companies.

Yet many Australians feel that even when they do share personal information, companies are benefiting the most from the exchange. Just 34 percent of respondents said they get improved service in exchange for the personal data they give to companies, and 73 percent believe that businesses generally benefit the most from data sharing.

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