MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF: Brands risk endangering reputation and consumer trust if they fail to adopt stronger methods to protect consumer identities, as two thirds of UK and US consumers are concerned about how brands use their personal data, a new survey suggests.

The poll by customer identity management company Gigya also found that a similar number are worried about the security and privacy risks inherent in the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The study looked at responses from 4002 adults in the US and UK, exploring perceptions of brands' approaches to data privacy. The findings are especially significant in light of the European Union's General Data Protection legislation that will come into force in May 2018.

Richard Lack, managing director of EMEA at Gigya, noted the "seismic" effect that the upcoming law will have on marketing.

"GDPR, which is just a little more than a year away, will keep brands honest by forcing an "opt-in" policy on consumer data for the first time and [by] radically changing the way that personally identifiable information is defined," he told the Drum.

"This research pinpoints an urgent need for retailers and marketers to restore public confidence in the year ahead. They must put GDPR compliant systems in place to prevent a mass consumer "opt-out" when the new regulations are enforced."

Concerns over data privacy show a generational disparity, as 60% of 18-24 year-olds surveyed registered concern, compared with 73% of those aged 65 and older. Attitudes to data security on IoT devices reflected a similar divide across generations.

However, the majority of consumers (63%) were willing to accept responsibility for their personal data, instead of relying on companies or governments. Despite this acknowledgement, consumers did not perceive a response from brands: 31% felt that brand privacy policies have weakened over the last 12 months.

"There is looming disconnect for brands if they don"t respond more aggressively to consumer demand for privacy and protection of their data," said Jason Rose, senior vice president of marketing at Gigya.

In a recent article for WARC, JWT's Marie Stafford argued that data policies would soon become a major competitive battleground. However, rather than see this as a challenge, she wrote, "brands should see the responsible approach to data management as an opportunity to build trust with their customers."

Data sourced from Gigya, The Drum; additional content by WARC staff