LONDON/PARIS: The extent of unease among European consumers about how organisations use their personal data has been starkly revealed in a new survey, which found over three-quarters (78%) find it hard to trust companies to use their information correctly.

The study, the Future of Digital Trust by Orange, the global telecoms company, interviewed over 2,000 consumers in France, Poland, Spain and the UK, and also uncovered significantly reduced trust in companies over the past year.

Almost one-third (29%) said they trusted companies less while over half (55%) said they had neither more nor less trust compared to the year before.

Furthermore, 70% think there are few or no trusted ways to find out about use of their personal data while 82% feel they have little power to control the way their personal data is used by organisations.

Released just a couple of days after Facebook announced its acquisition of Whatsapp and therefore gained access to data about the messaging service's 450m users as a consequence, the survey provided a clear warning that consumer trust is waning.

"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," said Daniel Gurrola, vice president of Business Vision at Orange.

He said Orange had already made a public commitment to its customers and the European Commission to increase transparency, but that its new study showed it and other companies have much more to do.

The company is calling for all businesses to address three key areas – transparency, control and education.

In short, it says industry needs to be more answerable, it needs to ensure that data sharing is an informed decision from the consumer, and it should act as a "collective consumer champion" to fill the current gap about educating consumers on how to control their data.

Data sourced from Orange; additional content by Warc