NEW YORK: American consumers are growing increasingly aware of just how much of their personal data is being collected by brands, sparking concerns among many about just how much of their online activity is being monitored, according to a new survey.

Just under two thirds (60%) of U.S. consumers reported concern around the level of personal data that brands collect. 59% of the sample objected to the monitoring of their online activities, according to Kantar TNS’ Connected Life study, based on a survey of 72,000 people across 56 countries. Just over 3,000 respondents were American.

“Most U.S. consumers feel on the losing end of an unfair advantage when it comes to giving up personal data in exchange for connectivity and want a greater say in decisions that impact them even if it means compromising on speed or ease,” observed Liam Hickey, Vice President, Kantar TNS.

For Hickey, the findings shed further light on the cultural moment in which the survey took place. “We are now living in a connected, post-truth world where the default for the majority of consumers is suspicion, not acceptance.”

The study also illustrates a public increasingly wary of government uses of personal data. A majority (58%) of respondents did not report confidence in the government to use their personal information to provide better public services.

But the real challenges come for bigger brands who leverage large amounts of personal information. Just 21% of those surveyed trust big brands, compared with 37% who trust smaller, local brands.

Hickey posited that brands’ recent work involving personal data, which was intended to personalise experiences and provide trust seems to be backfiring. “In the U.S., the connection that brands have strived to create with consumers … appears to be eroding trust, not building it.”

Notably, the results point to a need for brands to respect consumers’ time and provide greater transparency. “They need to be mindful of the value exchange: what are they giving back to their customers in return for their data,” Hickey continued.

Elsewhere, the report explored attitudes to the information they see on social media. Americans, the study found, are far more suspicious, with 53% reporting that they doubt its reliability, compared to a global average of 35%.

With an atmosphere of distrust, the question of a fair value exchange is growing in importance, as is the issue of transparency over personal data. As Marie Stafford of JWT’s Innovation Group wrote recently, “the responsible management of customer data is seen by many as the next competitive battleground.”

Sourced from Kantar TNS, WARC