By Chris Blake, Account Director
Our client Janrain, which pioneered the Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) category and manages over 1.5 billion digital identities for clients like Pfizer, Samsung, Whole Foods, Philips, McDonald’s and Dr Pepper, today announced the results of a new survey we worked with them on: the Consumer Attitudes Toward Data Privacy Survey.
We’ve conducted a number of surveys for Janrain as well as other companies in the digital marketing stack, and over the years it became clear that consumers in general were getting more comfortable with the idea of companies using their personal information to help cater to them in more personalized ways. While the high profile breaches that affected Target, Home Depot, Sony, Anthem, and Yahoo! showed us just how vulnerable our information is, in the past we found people were concerned about data privacy but generally okay with giving businesses the benefit of the doubt when it came to how their data was being handled.
As Janrain’s latest survey shows, the Cambridge Analytica breach marked (rather, caused) a major turning point in the way consumers feel about their data privacy. Janrain queried over 1,000 U.S.-based consumers and found people are not only more concerned about how their data is being collected, shared and used (57% said the breach made them even more concerned about data privacy than they had been in the past), they’re also ready to start taking action. In a stunning admission, 62% reported they are now thinking about closing their Facebook account.
Do we believe more than half of Facebook’s users will suddenly drop the social network? Certainly not. But this could be the start of a slow but steady consumer revolt that businesses could feel the effects of over time. People are now very much aware that their personal data is being compromised (78% of them said they knew Cambridge Analytica had made off with the data of 87 million users without their permission), and we may have finally reached a point where they say enough is enough. Maybe they don’t delete their social media accounts. But maybe they will log in less or share less information.
We’re not just talking about information like social security numbers and credit card numbers. If the Cambridge Analytica breach demonstrates anything, it shows people are just as sensitive when it comes to their social data—information they share about themselves on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social network. If businesses want to be entrusted with such data, they need to assume more responsibility in protecting it.
One thing that surprised me in particular about the survey was how open people now are to regulation that ensures companies are more transparent in how they handle personal data as well as gives people more control over how that personal data is collected, stored, shared and used. In fact, a whopping 69% of those surveyed would like to see privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in the US.
And here’s where we find the silver lining. The greater consumer awareness, concern and reaction to the Cambridge Analytica breach may finally force government and industry to take a harder look at how businesses are collecting, storing, sharing and using personal data. Does this mean it’s goodbye to personalization? Not at all. Despite the strong reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a third of Americans are still in favor of websites and mobile applications that use their data to provide more personalized ads and experiences—as long as the business behind the site or app is protecting their data and using it responsibly within the confines of user preferences.
The bad news: 43% don’t believe businesses in general care enough to keep their data private and secure. But this can surely change as businesses work toward giving consumers greater control over how their data is handled, which in turn should help restore the consumer’s faith in brands. People do generally appreciate being catered to in a personalized way, and once brands are trusted again, there will be stronger relationships in place that benefit both the business and consumer.