Transparency and trust ‘top trumps’ in data strategy

data_digital2The Covid pandemic may have fuelled greater acceptance of the power of “data for good”, but when it comes to private sector firms it is the age-old issues of transparency and trust which must be tackled before consumers will fully embrace the data exchange.

That is just one of the key findings of a new report from Government advisory body The Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation (CDEI), which works within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

The “Public Attitudes to Data and AI” tracking study reveals that over four-fifths (81%) of people are comfortable providing personal data to the NHS to develop new healthcare treatments and 62% are positive about doing so with the Government to deliver public services. Meanwhile, just over half (51%) were also comfortable providing companies with personal data to tailor products and services.

However, as has long been noted, there is a sharp divide between the generations; nearly three-fifths of those aged 18 to 44 were happy to provide firms with data for personalised services but this fell to two-fifths among the 65 to 74 age group.

This divide was also seen when respondents were asked about whether they knew how data about them is used and collected in their day-to-day lives, with knowledge of data use decreasing with age; among those aged 18 to 34, three-fifths (61%) were clued up; over 65s were not.

There was also uncertainty among respondents about whether organisations are transparent about how they use data; only two-fifths (40%) agreed that when their information is collected, they are made aware of how it is going to be used. Data being sold without awareness or consent was also a key concern of respondents.

Overall, the willingness to share data with an organisation was strongly related to the levels of trust consumers reported in that organisation.

And the purpose of data use also was found to influence decision-making less than the involvement of a highly trusted or untrusted organisation across the range of use-cases tested. Purposes that directly benefit society or individuals were better received, while targeted advertising had the strongest negative public reaction among the use-cases tested.

Even so, respondents were more willing to share data when strong governance mechanisms were stated to be in place to assure them.

Trust in an organisation to manage data generally corresponded with trust in that organisation to act in individuals’ best interest. One exception to this is local independent businesses which are highly trusted to act in individuals’ best interest, second only to the NHS, but see much lower confidence in their data practices.

Across the statements tested, levels of trust do not differ significantly. However, on average, respondents were more likely to say they trust organisations to use data to improve products and services (57%) and less likely to say this about allowing you to make decisions about how your data is used (50%).

Social media companies received the lowest trust scores in terms of acting in individuals’ best interest (36%) and in managing data (average of 33% across the metrics).

The study suggests the media has a huge influence on consumer attitudes. When respondents recalled news stories about data, the stories were more frequently negative presentations of data use than positive and more frequently about social media firms.

Respondents often recalled stories relating to collection and selling of personal data online, especially through Facebook in order to target ads at users.

However, behaviours have not necessarily been affected as the majority of respondents reported that they still use social media most days.

When it comes to attitudes to artificial intelligence, respondents reported limited knowledge; only 13% felt they could offer a full explanation of this term. In fact, AI was predominantly associated with being scary and futuristic and those with the lowest digital familiarity more frequently associated AI with feelings of worry and fear.

Many respondents expressed discomfort with some applications of AI, including 32% of respondents who said they were uncomfortable with AI being used to power Internet search engines, even though this is already a common practice.

CDEI interim chair Edwina Dunn said: “Engaging with the public to understand their views is critical if we are to enable responsible innovation and build a trustworthy data environment.

“I urge those working in government, the wider public sector, industry and academia to read the report and stay up-to-date with the results of future waves. I hope the insights generated inform the development of policy and regulation, as well as new products and services, in the years to come.”

Related stories
Young driving growing acceptance of the data exchange
Customers will share data but don’t rest on your laurels
The only way is ethics: Brands urged to sign data pledge
CMOs embrace data ethics but firms need to catch up
Brands urged to ‘do the right thing’ over data privacy
Data-driven marketing is ‘continuing to rule world’
Data-driven activity? What’s not to like, say chiefs

Print Friendly