Industry relief as Brits scotch Covid data sharing fears

corona 1The data-driven marketing industry can rest easy that the Government’s shambolic handling of the test and trace programme has not adversely affected consumers’ willingness to share their information with companies, with the vast majority of Brits saying Covid-19 has made no impact on their behaviour.

So says the Information Commissioner’s Office 2020 Annual Track survey, which quizzes 2,000 people each year on their views about data protection and freedom of information rights.

According to the research, which covers a wide range of issues, three-fifths of consumers (61%) say they will still share information if there is a benefit for them, and a similar number (62%) would use websites where advertisements are targeted to them if they can access the site free of charge.

Meanwhile, just under three-fifths (59%) would be happy to receive contact from a company they have not dealt with previously as long as the firm is getting the details from publicly available information and 57% would even be willing to be contacted by a company they have not dealt with previously if details have been sold between partner organisations.

While the vast majority said Covid-19 had made no difference, between 12% and 15% of those surveyed said the pandemic would make them more likely to share data, and between 22% and 31% said they would be less likely to share information.

Even so, the study appears to scotch industry fears – expressed in the DMA’s monthly “Coronavirus – The Impact on Business Survey” – about the impact the Government’s test and trace strategy could have on long-term consumer trust.

The July survey showed nearly a third of DMA members were concerned Covid-19 was harming public trust in brands and marketing – up from 17% in May. Sentiment about the impact of the ‘test, track and trace’ programme had also worsened. Over half (57%) of industry professionals believed it would negatively impact consumer willingness to share personal data – up from 42% in May.

Back to the ICO study, and, when prompted, the data protection concern of most importance to the public is “personal information being used for scams or fraud”, ranked first of nine options by 31% and in the top three by 65%. This is followed by “personal information being stolen”, ranked first by a quarter (26%) and nearly two thirds (64%) ranking it in the top three.

Having personal information used for scams/fraud (72%) or stolen (71%) are events that would be most likely to prevent the public from using an organisation. Over three in five (62%) feel that if their personal information was being shared without a valid reason, this would prevent them from using an organisation.

Interestingly, the report coincides with The Age Appropriate Design Code or ‘Kid’s Code’ coming into force, even though the practice of children’s personal information being used online was not seen as a major issue in the study, with only 8% citing as their top concern and 26% placing it in their top three.

Online companies now have 12 months to become compliant with new regulation, designed to protect children online.

The code has the power to trigger compulsory audits, orders to stop processing and fines of up to 4% of global turnover on non-compliant firms and applies to organisations providing online services and products “likely to be accessed by children up to age 18”.

Those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services like apps, connected toys, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services that use, analyse and profile children’s data, are likely to have to do more to conform to the code, the ICO said.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham commented: “This code makes clear that kids are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections. We want children to be online, learning and playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place.

“We do understand that companies, particularly small businesses, will need support to comply with the code and that’s why we have taken the decision to give businesses a year to prepare, and why we’re offering help and support.”

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