Diminishing trust in Web companies a 'challenge'

An Ovum study shows more online users are starting to tire of Internet companies harvesting their private data and using the information honestly, making it a challenge for companies to change this perception.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Consumers are increasingly more wary of having their personal data collected across the Internet and concerned over how the information is used by companies. As such, such fears have prompted them to seek out new tools to allow them to be "invisible" online.

In a study released Wednesday, the research firm said 68 percent of the Internet population across 11 countries would select a "do-not-track" feature if it was easily available. This suggests a data "black hole" could soon open up as people seek out new tools that would make them untraceable and impossible to target based on their online footprint, it noted.

This hardening of consumer attitudes, coupled with tightening regulation, could diminish personal data supply lines and have a considerable impact on targeted advertising, customer relationship management (CRM), big data analytics, and other digital industries, it added.'

"Unfortunately, in the gold rush that is big data, taking the supply of 'little data'--personal data--for granted seems to be an accident waiting to happen," said Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum.

"However, consumers are being empowered with new tools and services to monitor, control, and secure their personal data as never before, and it seems they increasingly have the motivation to use them."

Trust in Web companies wanes
The study also found only 14 percent of respondents believing that Internet companies are honest about their use of consumers' personal data. This comes on the back of recent privacy scandals by mobile messaging provider WhatsApp, and data use policies on Facebook and Google Web sites, it noted.

The result suggests it will be a challenge for online companies to change consumers' perceptions regarding how they use personal data, it stated.

"Internet companies need a new set of messages to change consumers' attitudes. These messages must be based on positive direct relationships, engagament with consumers, and the provision of genuine and trustworthy privacy controls," Little stressed.  

He added that Web companies and data controllers need to have a "better feel" for the approaching disruption to their data supply lines, and invest in tools to help them understand the profile for today's negatively-minded online users.

Editorial standards