By: Chris Blake, Account Director

A couple of months ago, we wrote about a survey we worked on with customer identity and access management provider, Janrain, to create on consumer attitudes toward data privacy.

This month, we released the latest installment of this survey series, which shows U.S.-based consumers still generally trust brands despite years of watching large organizations like Yahoo!, Equifax and Home Depot suffer from devastating security breaches that compromised consumer data. Nearly half of those surveyed said they are willing to forgive brands for data breaches as long as they are immediately informed about the attack and how the company is responding. 42%–are at least being open to forgiving the brand. But the survey showed it’s not just about forgiveness. It’s also about trust. Remarkably, only 14% have completely lost faith in any organization’s ability to protect their data.

This is really good news, not just for brands, but for the marketing and PR professionals who serve them. It doesn’t mean brands can be careless in the management of their customer data, but if an organization works in good faith to manage customer data securely and responsibly, it may be able to overcome a data breach should one occur.

This isn’t to say consumers are letting companies off the hook. Far from it, in fact, as our survey also suggests, people are increasingly taking control of their data. Much has been written about the increasingly popularity of ad blocking apps (71% told us they are among those who use software to protect their data or otherwise control their web experience), but our survey shows consumers also want to assume control of their data in other ways. In fact, they’re quite open to consent-based marketing, a practice in which a company uses a customer’s data only in ways that customer has agreed to have it be used.

For instance, 55% would let companies use some of their personal data for specific purposes that benefit them in clear ways. 66% like the idea of being able to alert companies when they’re interested in something as long as they can “switch it off” when they’re no longer interested. Only 36% wouldn’t let any company use their personal data and only 16% aren’t into sharing their data even with granular preferences control. There’s a caveat, however: being open to consent-based marketing requires the brand to be trustworthy.

For a lot of brands, this means there’s work to be done. Consumers aren’t going to willfully share their data with just anybody. Businesses need to show they can be trusted, and this requires more than some fancy messaging that talks about being trustworthy. Brands need to actually be trustworthy. According to the principles of privacy by design, data privacy needs to be at the core of everything a company does. It must be baked into its products from the earliest design stage. And while GDPR may only affect consumers located in the EU, many U.S.-based businesses cater to consumers overseas. If the brand isn’t already affected by regulations like GDPR that force brands to provide consumers with greater privacy, security and control of their personal data, chances are it could be down the road—66% of those surveyed called for GDPR-like rules here in the U.S.

But brands also need to do a much better job of using their consumer data effectively. When we asked consumers about online ads, only 18% said they often seemed to understand their needs. 47% said these ads seem to understand their needs at least sometimes, but a full quarter of the people we surveyed said online ads hardly ever understand them. 9% said online ads never do at all. If a company is going to take on the risk of managing sensitive consumer data, shouldn’t the company be able to show customers it gets them more than just a small fraction of the time?

Overall, though, our survey should be considered welcome news for brands and consumers alike. Trusted businesses that take the personal data privacy and security of their customers seriously have an opportunity to engage in consent-driven marketing with consumers, which will create stronger, longer-term and more mutually beneficial B2C relationships.