A report by Global Web Index found that only 49 percent of digital consumers agreed that they feel in control of their personal online data. It’s clear the industry isn’t where it needs to be when it comes to data control and transparency.
With the rise of high-profile data breaches, a fundamental question is raised: Do users really care about controlling their data? Or is their need to use an app higher than their concern about whether their personal data is being misused?
It really comes down to what “full control” means. In an ideal world, the relationship between the consumer and the brand—and the user and the app—would be based on respect, mutual understanding and fair balance. The “transaction” would be one of where the currency of data is used to provide genuine utility to the consumer. This is the kind of world where consumers would feel truly in control of their data.
Unfortunately, control today comes down to the consumer opting into an ambiguous consent notice, or having the option to opt out after their data has already been collected, if they can figure out how. It’s little wonder they don’t feel in control.
Falling prey to digital “gangsters”
Not every company wants to operate in a world where consumers have full, unambiguous control of their data.
Consider the walled gardens. Their relationship with their users is not based on mutual understanding and fair balance. Rather, it is based on exploiting their users’ addiction to their apps and content. Recently, major walled gardens have been accused of “intentionally and knowingly” violating data privacy laws, with some being referred to as “digital gangsters.”
Gangsters are known for employing tactics of intimidation and fear, and the walled gardens have been instilling similar methods. But the hard truth is that no one is above the law. If Al Capone couldn’t avoid legal accountability, neither can the digital gangsters.
Still, the question lingers: Do consumers care?
Ogury’s first-party mobile user journey data revealed that usage of a major walled garden’s site and app dropped immediately after one of its 2018 data breaches. However, it went straight back to normal less than a week later. What does this tell us? This demonstrates that despite a lack of consumer trust with these tech giants, engaging with their content is habitual. Consumers are willing to exchange their data to receive the value they seek.
Just like walled gardens were accused of “knowingly” violating data privacy laws, consumers are often “knowingly” sacrificing their data. And like the 1920’s prohibition where gangsters were admired because they provided deprived civilians with the commodity they desired, a similar practice is happening in today’s digital space.
What’s a fair trade?
Privacy regulations are starting to make a dent in this issue. Over half of all U.S. businesses are being affected by the EU’s GDPR. Consumer privacy laws in California will soon take effect. As a result, when it comes to privacy and compliance, companies that practice unlawful behaviors will be held accountable, paving the way for a world of consumer control.
In fact, consumers really do care about data control. However, the power of habit and their desire to access content influences their decision making. So what can be done about it? Consumers need to be empowered with a fair choice.
Today’s consent notices provide the user with two options when it comes to sharing their data: They can opt in and hopefully receive relevant marketing, or they can opt out and most likely receive irrelevant promotions.
Something is missing in these choices. What if users are given the choice to pay to access quality content, in a marketing-free environment? This is already the case with some paid apps. Let’s push the idea further. With data being the new oil, what if the user can simply pay to access content with their data?
It’s time to actually give them that choice.
Users need to be placed firmly in control of both their data and how they decide to access content, without feeling threatened or intimidated in doing so. Providing users with the option to use their data as a currency to access quality content or withdraw its use and simply pay with money to enjoy a marketing free experience is the fair choice that the digital ecosystem needs to enforce in order to restore and maintain the trust of the users.
Evan Rutchik is the U.S. chief revenue officer at Ogury, responsible for scaling the technology company specialized in mobile journey marketing’s U.S. sales and business efforts from its New York City office. He has managed award-winning media campaigns since 2007, previously holding senior roles at digital media leaders on both the technology and agency sides of the business.