Report shows netizens very wary of sharing their data

News by Steve Gold

New EY report highlights backlash against Big Brother data collation

A report just released by EY - the new name for consultants Ernst & Young - claims to show that people and businesses are a lot more wary of sharing their information with private organisations, especially as our usage of the Internet continues to rise.

The survey for the report - which took in responses from 2,000 consumers and more than 740 senior business decision makers - found that government bodies are still the most trusted to “own” personal information (trusted by 55 percent of respondents),  whereas financial institutions, energy providers and supermarkets are at the other end of the scale in terms of data trustworthiness. 

Patrick James, a partner with EY – who came up with the idea of the survey - said that the fact that only seven percent of respondents trusted Internet search engines - and  eight percent trusted social networks - is a significant change from the early 2000s, when people were a lot more trusting about who they shared their personal information with. Bottom in the trust-stakes came mobile apps, at just 5 percent.

Valuable data

"The next big change is going to be a much greater understanding of the value that users apply to their own data," he said, adding that the end result of this shift will be that people will be unwilling to share their details with organisations unless they can clearly get something in return.

This wariness, he told, is most prevalent when it comes to search giants like Google, which has clearly demonstrated that it is now using the data input by users for its own material gain.

"Most users now understand that nothing they share with Google in any shape or form is sacrosanct," he explained, noting that Google's use of customer data is making people far more aware of the value of their data than they would otherwise have been.


Delving into the report - entitled `The Big Data Backlash' - reveals that that 49 percent of consumers surveyed admit that they think they will be less willing to share personal information in the next five years. As a result EY predicts that the `Golden Age' of free data will come to an end in 2018 - and that businesses need to start preparing for this change.

EY says that companies need to be aware of what the Big Data backlash might mean for them, since so many of today's businesses are reliant on customer-generated information as an important source of data for customer insight programmes.

A key finding from the report is that almost half of businesses surveyed (48 percent) think that customer interactions - such as previous purchases, ad clicks and web browser behaviour - are the most valuable source of customer insight. Meanwhile, 59 percent of business decision-makers use customer-generated data for customer insight from customer interactions, social media and publicly available data.

In contrast, just 10 percent of businesses believe that commercial partners are their most valuable source of insight into customer behaviour.

Customer insights

EY concludes that many companies appear to rely on the customer insight that Big Data can deliver. Yet, the research firm says, companies need to wake up to how access to consumers' personal data might change over the next decade and how changes in EU legislation could affect them. This will, notes the report, help them develop new strategies so they can continue to use Big Data to gain insights into their customers' behaviour.

Commenting on the report, Fran Howarth, a senior security analyst with Bloor Research, said she does not think people are as comfortable with sharing their personal information with the Government.

"People don't really have a choice about sharing personal info with central government. Tax is not a choice and it seems obvious that you need to share info with the NHS to get the right treatment. I do not equate that with trust," she said, adding that she is not surprised that people are wary of giving information where it is not strictly necessary in the light of the raft of data breaches, ID theft and recent revelations regarding technology giants handing over data to US authorities surreptitiously.

"There is also the issue of private companies building what many would consider to be excessive profiles for commercial purposes in order to sell more products to them," she explained.

"I would imagine they trust neither their commercial practices, nor their ability or willingness to ensure that security safeguards regarding their data are watertight," she concluded.

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