Government bodies still most trusted to ‘own’ personal information, EY survey finds

Despite high profile surveillance and data gathering incidents, consumers still appear to trust government bodies more than private sector organisations when it comes to having access to their personal information, according to a recent online survey by EY.

Over half (55%) of consumers say they are comfortable sharing their personal data with central government bodies, such as the NHS and HM Revenue and Customs. Consumers, however, appear more skeptical when it comes to sharing their personal information with private sector organisations even when these provide day-to-day services.

Around a quarter (26%) would be happy to share personal details with their energy provider, while just over 32% would be happy to share their data with financial institutions and only 20% with supermarkets.

The online EY survey of just over 2,000 consumers and 748 senior business decision makers looks at the shift of consumers’ attitudes towards personal data sharing and the action businesses need to take to adapt their customer insight programmes accordingly.

'What our survey shows is a shift in attitudes and practices towards how consumers treat their personal data,' said Steve Wilkinson, Managing Partner, UK & Ireland client service, 'and the access they will allow to their data, both now and in future.'

Despite well publicised government mis-steps towards data privacy, consumers still appear more willing to share personal data with public sector organisations. On the other hand, there is a growing trend to revoke the access that private companies have to such information.

As a result, we are likely to see a change in which bodies have the greatest access to customer information in the next five-to-10 years.'

> See also: Half of UK consumers say corporate data collection is harmful — survey

No more online sharing?

As the prominence of social media websites has grown, consumers have become more cautious about who they share their information with online. In total, just 8% of consumers feel comfortable sharing their personal information with social networks, only 7% with search engines and 5% with mobile apps.

Half of consumers (50%) that use social media networks claim that their use of them has made them less open to sharing personal data and two fifths of consumers (40%) now restrict all access to their personal data on social media sites.

Steve explains: 'When it comes to online channels, consumers are even more sensitive about who they are willing to share personal information with. The rise of digital natives – those that have grown up with an inherent understanding of technology – means that today’s customers understand the dangers of sharing information online and try to protect it by restricting the access private companies have to their personal data.'

Disparity between consumers and businesses

Despite consumers’ changing attitudes to private data sharing, there is a disparity among business executives about which organisations will have access to customer information in the future.

In total, 3% of business decision makers expect local government to become a valuable source of customer data 10 years from now and a further four per cent of business executives predict that central government will become a provider of customer insight.

A further 16% of senior business decision makers anticipate that customers themselves will be an important source, while 12% identify social networks as a viable option. In total, 10% of business executives state that search engines will be among the most valuable sources used to gain customer insight in the future.

Steve comments on the significance of the results: 'Organisations are currently heavily investing in new solutions that can help them capture the growing volume of customer information and deliver insights that can be used to improve the customers’ experience.

Despite the explosion in Big Data – and new technologies to capitalise on the opportunities that it affords – few organisations are currently thinking abut their long-term investment or identifying what will be the biggest sources of information in 10 years’ time.

Business executives should focus on analysing the change in customer attitudes towards personal information sharing, to avoid rendering current investments pointless.'

> See also: Be transparent about data handling to build customer trust, says Deloitte

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...