Just 45% of consumers globally trust organisations to protect the privacy of their personal data, while a similar proportion (44%) have taken steps to reduce the amount of data they share online, according to a new worldwide survey.

The research, conducted by Dentsu Aegis Network in partnership with research firm Oxford Economics, polled more than 43,000 consumers across 24 countries and uncovered growing distrust of digital technology and the role it plays in their lives.

Entitled Digital Society Index 2019, the report found that lack of trust and concerns about personal wellbeing are encouraging consumers to seek a healthier balance in their digital media consumption.

Globally, one-in-three people say digital technology is having a negative effect on their health and quality of life, while 57% are worried about the pace of change, rising to more than 80% in markets such as Brazil, China and India.

A full 58% believe not enough is being done to ensure that digital technology benefits everyone in society, rather than a select few, and it also appears consumers are willing to take action to restore what they regard as a healthier balance.

For example, eight-in-ten say they would stop doing business with an organisation that misused their data, 27% have installed ad-blockers, 21% have already limited the amount of time they spend online or on their smartphone, while 14% have deactivated a social media account.

“While the innovation, dynamism and growth unleashed by digital technology is the defining economic trend of our time, across the globe the human impact of that change is both complex and, in some areas, a cause for concern,” said Tim Andree, executive chairman and CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network.

“Ultimately, digital innovation must serve fundamental human needs,” he added. “We need to find a more sustainable way to think about the application of data, technology and creativity not just for economic gain, but for the benefit of society at large and for all of us as individuals.”

The report makes clear that these concerns go beyond the tech industry and apply to all organisations, who should tackle the main driver of distrust – the misuse of personal data – by competing on openness and transparency.

Dentsu also advised organisations to focus on engagement, rather than reach, and to help consumers undertake their own “digital detox”, so creating a loyalty premium by helping them to interact on their own terms. They should harness technology to enable more effective learning among consumers, the report added.

Sourced from Dentsu Aegis Network; additional content by WARC staff