Distrust in use of personal data could hinder business growth

A study from the Digital Catapult has explored trust in the use of personal data and revealed worrying trends which could hinder the delivery of digital services and business growth, in the UK for years to come. Amongst the report’s findings, 60% of consumers admitted they were uncomfortable sharing personal data, with 14% refusing to share any personal data at all.


A primary reason for this appears to be distrust in businesses’ openness and transparency in how and when they use consumer data. Over two-thirds (65%) of respondents revealed they are “unsure if data is being shared without their consent” with 30% stating that the retail sector is most guilty of using personal data without being clear they are doing so.

When asked who they most trust with their data, the public sector led the way with 44% of the vote while telecoms came bottom of the pile with just 2%.

Neil Crockett, CEO of the Digital Catapult commented: “The sharing of personal data is vital to the improvement of digital services and the development of new ones. Every digital service reaches a point where it must overcome a hurdle. This is often associated with data, whether that is in the opening up of closed datasets or use of consumer information. To deliver the best digital services and drive economic growth, we must ensure they trust businesses to use their information in the right way. In doing this we not only create new and more productive citizen and consumer digital solutions, we give the UK a real chance in being a leader in a new wave of digital tools and approaches to solve a global problem.”

Despite the potential benefits of using personal data to improve customer service and boost innovation such as the development of mobile healthcare, 79% of consumers believe the main use of personal data is for organizations’ economic gain.

For 76%, the main concern around sharing information is that they have “no control over how data is shared or who it is shared with”. As such 94% of respondents stated they want more control over their data.

As consumers continue to rely on digital every day, the need to improve the sharing of personal data with organizations is essential to ensure the improvement and development of new digital services, according to Steven Cox, Executive Director, Public Sector in UK & Ireland at Fujitsu. “More needs to be done therefore, across all industries, to encourage consumers to share their data where it is appropriate to do so,” Cox added.


Exploring what would encourage consumers to share person data, the majority (43%) stated that they would share information if it was clear that it would be used to improve society. Improvements to healthcare and education were highlighted – something very much on the agenda as the UK strives to grow the digital economy with the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart technology. Almost a quarter (21%) of those surveyed said monetary gain would most convince them to share their personal data with 61% stating their information should be worth at least £30pcm.

Rafael Laguna, CEO at Open-Xchange, said: “Following the recent spate of data breaches by companies it’s absolutely no surprise that consumers are distrustful of where their personal data is shared. The huge number of people who just don’t know it’s being used without their consent highlights how little we are aware of our own privacy. While businesses might worry that that this distrust will impact their growth, it’s refreshing that people are starting to take a stand against businesses and governments using their personal information and it’s a great step in the privacy debate.”