The opportunity to gain consumers’ trust over data is industry-wide

Companies such as Tesco, Kickstarter and Barclays have recently suffered data breaches – which will no doubt have an effect on consumers’ faith in them – but the lack of trust that already exists is spread across a range of organisations. 

Mindi Chahal

A new report from the Global Research Business Network, claims that consumers have low levels of trust in many types of organisations. 

Across UK and US citizens, 38 per cent say they have no trust in how internet search engines such as Google and Bing are using their data, 53 per cent of people say they have no trust in social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter and 41 per cent say they don’t trust market research companies.  

Andrew Cannon, president of EFAMRO, the European part of the Global Research Business Network says: “I believe that organisations have a responsibility to lead the way, to be more transparent in their activities and earn the trust of citizens. It is clear that the market research sector also needs to more effectively demonstrate its commitment to protecting personal privacy.” 

The report, based on a survey of over 2000 individuals, also reveals that almost a third (31 per cent) of UK and US citizens do not trust their domestic government with their personal data. In addition, 29 per cent of people in the UK say they don’t trust the Intelligence services.  

The research also highlights consumer distrust in internet search engines, social media companies and mobile phone operators. 

Although people are reasonably familiar with how personal data is collected and used, there is still a high level of concern. Forty per cent of UK citizens and 45 per cent of people living in the US say they are very concerned about how their data is used. 

Interestingly, despite well-documented data breaches by banks and resentment following the credit crunch, the results show banks and financial organisations are more trusted than the US and UK governments – almost a quarter of people across the UK and the US claim to have significant trust in banks or other financial institutions using their data. 

Jane Frost, chief executive officer of the Market Research Society, part of the Global Research Business Network, believes “it is time for organisations to take a serious look at data security in a more rounded context. It needs to be a corporate responsibility, not just delegated to IT.” 

The level of responsibility is also important here, and telling customers about how data is used isn’t enough. Brands need to take into consideration any consumer worries. The NHS plan to share patients’ GP records under the Care.data initiative may backfire, for instance, as more than three quarters (76 per cent) of people say they consider their health records to be sensitive data. 

While some of these figures may seem high – if such a large proportion (38 per cent) do not trust search engines, for example, then arguably people would not be using them in the huge numbers that they are – taking responsibility for the use of personal data is paramount. 

Brands must ensure they are communicating to people effectively and taking on board any concerns from consumers – whether you are a market research company, a brand or government department – will only serve as an opportunity to build trust. 

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