Razorfish - Consumer Privacy Paradox

Razorfish: Consumer Privacy Paradox

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According to a just-released study of online consumer behavior, what consumers say and what they do are not always aligned, especially when it comes to their data privacy. Digital advertising agency Razorfish, part of Publicis Groupe, took a closer look at consumer attitudes toward online privacy by conducting a survey. The agency put together the results in “The Privacy Paradox,” a look at consumer awareness and habits around protecting privacy online.

“The paradox is really around consumers’ concern around privacy,” said Eddie Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer at Razorfish, referring to the title of the report. “We started understanding what they were wary of sharing. Things like face scans and photos. Yet 62% have shared photos of themselves on social media.”

The biggest surprise? “I would have thought we’d hear consumers would give up their data for more personalized experiences,” Gonzalez said. Instead, they want personalized experiences without giving access to their personal data, a value exchange that many do not seem to understand is unavoidable. 

When it comes to the accuracy of advertising personalization, responses ranged from disappointment with such pinpoint accuracy to a sense of satisfaction that some described as also being creepy.

Here are some more illustrations of the differences between what respondents’ believed about protecting their personal data and how they behaved online:

  • Respondents claimed to be aware of data safety, and 56% of them said they have the highest trust with their personal data of the healthcare and banking industries. The reality is that those verticals have the highest number of cybersecurity incidents. 
  • They revealed they were most distrustful of social media (68% of respondents) even as they share personal information such as selfies, locations, plans, acquaintances, and interests on a daily basis. Respondents said they trust social media less than crypto companies. 
  • Half of respondents said they would never do business with a company again if they knew it was sharing their data without their consent, but Android apps do this all the time.
  • Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they trust their personal devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers, but only 22% trust the government, 16% trust tech platforms, and only 13% trust brands. 

Razorfish makes some recommendations for brands to get consumers on their side about privacy.

First, brands should take control of the first-party consumer data they have gathered over the years. Gonzalez acknowledged the difficulty of such a task because so much of it is decentralized. Brand marketers can partner with companies to conduct audits, that is, find out where all that data is and centralize it.  

“Maintaining data quality and identifying gaps in your collection plan is key,” he explained. “They need to understand where all the data sits and bring it all together. Over time bring it into one place.”

Second, if brands are handling personal data in a supremely responsible way, they need to toot their own horns about it. There is no shame in communicating that publicly as a part of a company’s marketing. Data privacy takes investment and commitment, and some brands, such as Apple, are not shy about the privacy protections they provide for consumers, especially when downloading apps from the Apple store.

Brand marketers need to know the degree to which consumers understand privacy protections and take the position of educator and advocate for consumer rights. 

Finally, it all comes down to transparency, Gonzalez explained.

The importance of brands being transparent with consumers about how and why their data is being collected and how it will be used cannot be understated. Brands and platforms must make consent agreements about data understandable to the lay person, not just the attorney. Brands must develop a policy, obtain consent, and allow users to be able to access and delete their data as they wish.  

“Sharing data without authorization can be detrimental” to a brand, said Gonzalez. “Being transparent builds trust.” 

As for face scans, 78% of the survey respondents expressed that they were uncomfortable with it. But facial recognition technology is becoming ubiquitous in the U.S., and most consumers are unaware that this type of data is regularly being collected. 

The European Union has GDPR, and with CCPA, California is the only state with such digital privacy protections.

New York City is the only major U.S. city where businesses must make customers aware that they are collecting biometric information, which could include face scans. 

An Amazon Go store is the subject of a lawsuit in the city filed by a man who claims a store he visited failed to disclose the collection of personal, biometric data. An Amazon representative told NBCNews.com that it does not use facial recognition technology.  The representative also said the data it collects at the Go stores is not obtained through biometric technology.

Kathleen Sampey