The Dark Side of Our Digital Lives

We have come to assume that companies will leverage our personal data to provide highly curated experiences that make us feel warm and fuzzy. Read our minds, consumers! In fact, our latest research, The Business Value of Trust, highlights that 54% of consumers, in Asia Pacific, expect companies, they do business with, to grasp their needs and provide personalized products/ services. This is all the more relevant when half of all consumers are always connected and 40% of them go online several times a day.

But this age of personalization and hyper-personalization raises some important technological, social, and ethical questions: What exactly is appropriate use of our data? Unless you live under a rock, you are bound to come across companies digging up skeletal information you thought you’d buried. Is it acceptable for a health insurance provider to monitor your fitness band data and use it to adjust its insurance premiums? Is it appropriate for a retailer to peep into your personal life and provide a personalized service accordingly? *Gasp!* Is it okay for a bank to deny your loan application because it discovered your potential health issues from the past? *Eeeks* All of these-and many more-are difficult, commercial questions. But at heart, they are ethical ones.

Getting personalized services is an exciting trend, but consumers are becoming leery of how companies are using their data; 58% of consumers, we surveyed, feel that they have little control how their personal data is used. They are getting increasingly anxious that their online/ mobile behavior is being tracked, and that their data is being sold to third parties. For instance, Acxiom Corp., a leading data broker, collects 1,500 data points per person for 700 million people worldwide. The company processes over 50 trillion sales transactions per year by selling consumer data multiple times to multiple customers. That’s just downright nerve-racking! As a result, not a surprise, 57% of consumers say they would completely stop doing business with a company that has used their personal data unethically. Consumers may forgive companies for their mistakes, but not for dishonesty.

In an age when personal data is the key to honing a competitive edge, data ethics is at the heart of business success. You and I will increasingly choose to work with Vendor A over Vendor B, if we trust Vendor A more. Isn’t it? Many companies believe that they have done their job by publishing data privacy and security policies. But more than half of the consumers, we surveyed, told us, “These polices are Greek to us!” That’s why we all glaze over at the “terms & conditions” before pressing the “I ACCEPT” button. Communication is a two-way street, so merely stating your organization’s policy and then hiding, behind the law, will not create a sustainable level of trust. Consider this-45% of consumers are willing to share their personal data if a company asks for permission upfront and clearly states how the data will be used.

You can download our report to learn more digital consumer trends in Asia Pacific. Also, check out my latest video to learn more about the dark side of our digital lives.