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First control, then consent

Consumers will share personal data if they’re in charge of how it’s used

Data is the new oil, but…companies should “refine” their approach by giving consumers more control over its flow.

Source: Digital media trends survey: A new world of choice for digital consumers”, Deloitte Insights, March 19, 2018.

Few doubt that data is the new oil.1 Many of the companies that are most adept at collecting, analyzing, and selling data have replaced fossil fuel companies atop lists of the world’s most valuable companies.

However, new regulations and consumer resistance are sometimes placing limits on the free flow of this precious resource. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) limits how companies can use and sell consumer data. Several global tech giants have already been sued or fined based on the law.2 In addition, California has ushered in new legislation that could bring GDPR-like limitations to America’s shores in 2020.3

The concern is likely that companies that use consumer data to generate insights and income may suffer a decline in revenues—and may have to change their business models substantially. Already, some tech companies have blamed GDPR for a drop in monthly users.4

These concerns may be overblown—as many concerns are. Data from Deloitte’s Digital media trends survey shows that if consumers are given control over their data, including the right to delete it, they are more comfortable sharing it.

Make no mistake—consumers do want control. Ninety-three percent of US consumers feel they have the right to delete their online data.5 Consumers consider their data to be personal property, and they are willing to invest time to protect it: Even though it’s work, 71 percent say they are interested in managing their personal data.

But if they had visibility and control over their data, 73 percent of all consumers across all generations said they would be more comfortable sharing it.

Nobody wants to cut a blank check—and blank checks are precisely what many consumers are most concerned about. When asked which data consumers fear will be misused, social security numbers, banking information, and credit information topped the list. Consumers appear to be far less concerned about sharing data that fuels the revenue engines of many tech giants and advertisers—such as browsing history, purchasing data, and social media activity. And if companies are willing to give them something of value in exchange, they’re willing to share an astonishing amount of data, including personal details such as birth dates and home address.6

By giving users control over their data, companies can make consumers more comfortable about what they share—while also helping make their offers and ads more valuable and less annoying. The Digital media trends survey showed that despite all the data they collect, advertisers are still churning out irrelevant ads. Why not let consumers update their own profiles and share their changing aspirations and preferences—all while giving companies consent to use the data consumers are comfortable sharing? That can make consumers partners in an exchange of value, rather than a commodity—an exchange that could be more valuable for businesses.

In other words, for data to remain the new oil, perhaps the benefits need to flow both ways.

This charticle authored by Jeff Loucks on September 6, 2018.


1 “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data,” The Economist, May 6, 2017.
2 Michael Kaplan, “Facebook and Google are already facing lawsuits under new data rules,” CNN, May 25, 2018.
3 Daisuke Wakabayashi, “California passes sweeping law to protect online privacy,” The New York Times, June 28, 2018.
4 Danny Palmer, “GDPR: What's really changed so far?,” ZDNET, August 3, 2018.
5 "Digital Media Trends Survey: A New World of Choice for Digital Consumers,” Deloitte Insights, March 19, 2018.
6 Ibid.

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