Consumers Still Do Not Understand How Companies Use Their Data

Photo by Chris Ried.

More than one year after the implementation of GDPR in Europe and with CCPA looming, consumers still have no idea how and why companies like Google and Facebook collect their data. That’s according to a global survey by mobile marketing firm Ogury, the largest of its kind to ask consumers about their understanding of marketing and privacy.

Nearly 40% of respondents in both Europe and the US were ignorant of what GDPR is. But more significant is that 52% of consumers report not understanding how their data is used.

GDPR has done little to educate the public, as only 8% say they have a better understanding of data collection and use now than they did one year ago when it took effect.

The results are significant but unsurprising. The survey supports the universal impression that people simply do not read the terms sheets that pop up on sites to inform users about privacy practices. In the US, only 7% of consumers report reading them.

Why are consumers in the dark on privacy? For one, many are willing to exchange personal information for free goods and services, the unspoken deal that billions of users have perhaps unwittingly struck with Google and Facebook for years. The survey indicates seven out of 10 consumers are happy to forfeit data in exchange for free access to content.

But consumers are really in the dark because their legislators have let tech firms run roughshod over privacy for decades, and until privacy affects the bottom line or fuels the fires of antitrust action, the tech giants themselves have no reason to educate the public or rein in the data collection practices that have afforded them the power to remake our reality.

The real question is not whether consumers are ignorant about our age’s oil today. It is whether they and legislators will learn as the talk of breaking up Big Tech intensifies and interest in a national privacy law mounts.

In other words, one year after GDPR, we still know little. What will we know a year from now?

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He joined Street Fight as a contributing writer in 2015, has compiled the daily newsletter since 2016, and has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Follow him on Twitter @joe_zappa, and shoot him an email at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.
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