Data is fuelling our world. Never before in the history of mankind have we generated, collected and exploited more data. When it comes to using data, particularly personal data, I have long argued that trust must be an essential aspect. When you are working with personal data, your success hinges on convincing people you can be trusted with their data. If people decide you are untrustworthy, they will give their data to others instead, along with the competitive advantages that go with it.
There’s good reason for this – barely a week goes by without a large-scale corporate or governmental data breach. Privacy of online information and the way it is used is a growing concern, and customers are increasingly voting with their feet in favour of businesses which act responsibly. As well as that, experts are predicting a huge growth in fines following the introduction of incoming legislation such as the GDPR, regulating how personal data can be collected and used.
This week, Experian has given me exclusive access to a brand new research which involved talking to 2,000 people about their attitudes towards data and privacy. I have spoken to Jon Roughley, Experian’s head of strategy, who tells me the resulting report aims to help businesses and organisations to start asking questions about how they intend to build that trust. According their insights which were released this week, people can be grouped into one of four categories which influence how likely they are to trust their personal data to third parties, as well as how they engage with the process of exchanging data.
They are the happy-go-lucky Unaware (22% of us), the Accepting (a less-than-thrilled but willing to go along with it 41%), and the Cautious (28%) who take the time to read and digest T&Cs before making decisions.
The remaining 9% is made up, according to Experian’s research, of the Incognito, a shadowy bunch who take extreme care not to share anything they don’t want to.
With two of these groups – the Accepting, and the Cautious, making up 70% of the population – management of the process of engagement can be critical to persuading them you can be trusted with their data.
Roughley said “There’s a lot of talk about the data and the technology but we think it’s important to bring in another dimension, which is about us as people and what our emotion and psychology is in relation to data and data sharing.
“Because actually it’s all very well and I can have the best data and the best technology but unless I can connect with the person who owns the data and show them that there’s value in it, and that they can trust me as an organisation, then the service won’t fly.”
So what are the elements that businesses need in place in order to start engaging with customers on how their data is being shared?
Well, one of them is obviously good previous form – showing that you have been reliable and trustworthy in the past while using data to improve things for your customers (or the world in general) is clearly a good start.
Experian’s research picked up a number of other important factors though, which consumers take into account when making trust-based decisions on data sharing.
Alongside trustworthiness based on past performance, it identified “proximity to purpose” and “privacy of data” as important considerations. Does the data being gathered seem relevant for what we are told it will be used for? And just how personal is the data they are asking us for, anyway? As an example, people may be more willing to give up data on their shopping habits than their health.
Convention may be another factor – if people see that sharing certain data is normal, or that everyone else is doing it, they are more agreeable to sharing their own.
And another (perhaps the most powerful) is the value they see themselves gaining from the data transfer.
Roughley tells me “What we wanted to do with this research was to get under the skin of what value exchange really means, to an individual at a point in time.
“And what we were able to pull out is that there is a combination of things – a number of these factors will need to be met and proven for that value exchange to take place.
“It’s about being able to demonstrate that there’s a real proximity to purpose in terms of why I want that data. If it makes sense to me to share the data and it has been explained to me how it’s going to be used, then I will share it – but don’t leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth about sharing it!”
The research suggests that consumers will be more inclined to see the value in sharing data when it relates to a significant “life step” moment – as an example, securing a mortgage. Among respondents, one third felt that it was unreasonable for a bank to ask for three months’ worth of bank statements when assessing a mortgage application.
“There are two factors at play here,” explains Roughley. “One is that it’s not been explained how and why that data is being used. The second is that there’s no value add to that data. If at this point in time I can go back to the customer and say ‘by the way, I can save you X amount of money through this…’ then I’ve added value to their life.”
With gaining customer trust being so crucial, it’s certainly worth putting thought into the process that goes into consumer decision making around data sharing. It’s an area which has been surprisingly under researched given its importance to industry as well as governmental organisations. I confidently expect that to change as more and more applications emerge which are reliant on persuading us to share data about our lives for their business models to operate.