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New research identifies increasing trust tension among European consumers in how organisations use their personal data

London/Paris, Friday 21 February 2014
  • New study by Orange – Future of Digital Trust – shows lack of trust is undermining opportunities for more personalised and useful services,
  • 78% of consumers think it is hard to trust companies when it comes to use of their data, and 70% think there are few or no trusted ways to find out about personal data use,
  • Better transparency, consumer control, and education required in order to address imbalance.

Orange today releases the findings of new research into consumer concerns about how companies use their personal data – research which clearly demonstrates that all businesses need to work together to rebuild consumer trust.

This first instalment of an independent, three-part study with consumers across France, Poland, Spain and the UK highlights that consumers are increasingly wary about how their information is being used, do not feel in control, and do not believe there are any resources to help educate them on how to manage their data online. 
Indeed, over three-quarters (78%) state that it is hard to trust companies when it comes to the way they use consumer personal data, and an identical figure (78%) feel that service providers hold too much information about consumer behaviour and preferences. Meanwhile, 82% feel they have little power to control the way their personal data is used by organisations.

While there are exciting opportunities for both consumers and service providers that can be built on intelligent, consensual and responsible use of consumer data – trustworthy data use is increasingly a fundamental requirement, and is having a greater impact on companies’ overall reputations. In fact, 29% of consumers trust companies less over the past year in general, while 16% report more and 55% have neither more nor less trust, clearly illustrating that trust is in decline.

“Faced with the rapid development of uses of consumer data, more needs to be done to help consumers understand and manage how their personal data is used,” Daniel Gurrola, Vice President, Business Vision, Orange, said. “In 2013, Orange made a commitment to our customers and the European Commission to increase transparency and control . We have started on this journey with increased transparency and new services such as Orange’s personal data dashboard, but this research shows that we, as an industry, have much more to do.”

The trust gap is increasing

The independent research points clearly to an increasing trust tension towards organisations holding consumer data, as well as a lack of trust in the responsible use of that data. Of most concern, is the fact that trust is waning, with multiple sectors seeing a decline in the last year:

which organisations do you trust less / more than a year ago?

  • Financial institutions: 31% of respondents trust less than a year ago (21% trust more)
  • Device manufacturers: 19% less / (18% more)
  • Mobile operators: 26% less / (16% more)
  • Internet service providers: 26% less / (16% more)
  • App developers: 26% less / (13% more)
  • Social networks: 46% less / (12% more)

The research shows that the treatment of personal data is a primary driver of consumer trust in organisations, and is almost as important as the quality of the core services that an organisation delivers.  Trust in organisations to use personal data online also varies by vertical sector, with financial institutions being most, and social networks being least trusted:

who do you trust to use/protect personal data?

  • Financial institutions: 51%
  • Mobile operators: 41%
  • Device manufacturers: 41%
  • Internet service providers: 41%
  • App developers: 24%
  • Social networks: 20%

Imbalance of benefits

Alongside the issues around trust are concerns about who benefits most from the data that consumers share with organisations:

  • Just 6% of respondents feel that the consumer is the main beneficiary of organisations gathering information about customer purchasing behaviour or history
  • 67% say that the organisations themselves benefit most
  • Just 16% see the benefits as being equally shared

The research also demonstrates that consumers today do not think they are well informed about how their data is used or how to manage it, and there is currently no clear consumer champion to educate them. Consumer bodies are doing the best job, but the relatively low figures suggest there is a need for improvement across the board:

who educates consumers about managing personal data?

  • Consumer bodies: 36%
  • Mobile operators: 20%
  • Internet service providers: 20%
  • National government organisations: 12%
  • Don’t know / None: 37%

However, it is perhaps most telling that 37% cannot think of any organisations that are doing a good job of educating the consumer about managing their personal data.
Tackling the problem is a collective responsibility
Consumers are clearly saying that work needs to be done by all businesses in order to address the issue of trust and ensure that the opportunities created by use of data – for both the consumer and companies involved – are not lost.
Importantly, the research indicates all businesses have a role to play, and only through working together will consumer trust be increased.

On the eve of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the mobile industry’s largest annual event, Orange is making a call to action around three key areas which need addressing by all businesses:

  • Transparency – the industry needs to be more answerable and transparent about data usage and data sharing,
  • Control – the industry needs to provide tools to allow consumers to control their data, dialling up, or dialling down as they wish, and receiving the services and benefits accordingly. Data sharing must be an informed decision from the consumer ,
  • Education – there is currently no stand-out body who is seen to be educating the consumer about how to control their data. The industry must therefore act as a collective consumer champion and show the way forward

Fundamentally, consumers want the balance redressed in order to gain greater control of their personal data and benefit more from sharing their data. This can be achieved by providing consumers with transparent data policies and offering tools to help them control use of their data.
The executive summary and an overview of the results can be downloaded at www.orange.com/digitaltrust.


download the press release

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press contacts

Jeff Sharpe: +44 7887 620 901 – jeff.sharpe@orange.com 
Tom Wright: +33 1 44 44 93 93 – tom.wright@orange.com

about Orange

Orange is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 41 billion euros in 2013 and has 164,000 employees worldwide at 31 March 2014, including 101,000 employees in France. Present in 30 countries, the Group has a total customer base of more than 239 million customers at 31 March 2014, including 182 million mobile customers and 16 million fixed broadband customers worldwide. Orange is also a leading provider of global IT and telecommunication services to multinational companies, under the brand Orange Business Services.

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