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Will the public ever trust the holders of ‘human data’ like they do a healthcare professional?
Industry News /

Will the public ever trust the holders of ‘human data’ like they…

Written by Darren Timmins

The pandemic has meant more people than ever rely on technology, but many remain distrustful of tech companies. Seventy-nine per cent of consumers in a recent poll said they are concerned about how tech companies use the data they collect of them. Ongoing breaches in privacy also continue to contribute to the public’s increasing distrust.

Yet, the public does trust some sectors with their data. The UK’s NHS has been holding GP patients’ virtual records for over twenty years, and it’s Track and Trace app was downloaded over 20 million times – roughly one-third of the total population. So, will the public ever trust the tech industry with their data as much as they do with the likes of the healthcare sector?

Apprehension about past scandals

The exposure surrounding scandals such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, or Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has made the public much more aware of data misuse and subsequently, more distrustful of tech companies.

In the UK, only 19 per cent of people believe tech companies have their customer’s best interest in mind while sixty-seven per cent of global consumers say they have little to no control over how their data is used. To build back trust, tech companies must begin to give consumers more control. Making users more empowered will make them feel appreciated and valued.

Who are we supposed to trust?

The level of trust varies between tech companies. While 75 per cent of Americans trust Microsoft to safeguard their personal information only 41 per cent trust Facebook. Why such a large and significant disparity?

One suggestion could be that once users experience a loss of trust towards an organisation, it can quickly become widespread – viral. Eighty-five per cent of people would tell others if they experienced a data breach. If a data breach is managed poorly, such as Facebook, communications company TalkTalk, and Cambridge Analytica the magnitude of the incident can be huge.

Yet, in practice, 55 per cent of consumers will continue to use companies even after they’ve suffered a data breach; brand loyalty, it seems, can remain strong even when the organisation involved has been found in breach of their data protection responsibilities.  Sharing data with tech companies has become a necessity to use the social platforms that many people are dependent on. While users may not trust tech companies, they will continue to use them as they have no other choice.

Responding to consumers

Consumers understand that sometimes the unforeseeable happens. It is the response of the organisation which most affects the trust of a user. Forty-four per cent of consumers said transparency and quick action were the most important steps when it came to a breach of data. Remaining transparent and having a strategy in place to deal with breaches will help maintain a customer’s trust.

Interestingly, Fitbit is now owned by Google. The fact being that people trust their health data to Fitbit without a second thought, but probably wouldn’t feel the same way towards Google having this access demonstrates the approach that consumers have to trusting technology companies with their health data.

Technology is more engrained than ever in society, but to be successful moving forward, tech companies need to focus on building trust in order to maintain users. Organisations must begin adopting policies that favour customer privacy rather than making extra profit from selling customer data. Businesses need to start establishing transparency and take responsibility for their mistakes. Only after these changes will the public be able to trust tech companies.

We’d love to hear your thought on this rather thorny issue. What do you think – are consumers more forgiving than we perhaps give them credit for, do they care about how their date is used (or mis-used) as much as we assume, and are the steps being taken by the purveyors of this data going far and robust enough?