Attending the recent Market Research in the Mobile World Conference in trendy and unseasonably warm Berlin, where the latest global innovations in mobile research and technology are shared and elaborated on, it became obvious why our presentation and following panel discussion regarding Consumer Mobile Privacy and Security Concerns was so timely. Two days of compelling results and demonstrations from cutting edge applications and research utilizing data collected both passively and actively from consumers’ computers, televisions, mobile devices, wearables, and eye-tracking technologies can leave a marketing researcher ecstatic over the boundless future possibilities for insight and learnings. The arrival of the smartphone in 2007 has positively accelerated the research opportunities available today by leveraging this personal hub of information to access a myriad of information.
Yes, this is great for us researchers, but what do consumers think around the globe about what is happening with their personal information? That is what we set out to understand in our four country study (US, Germany, Mexico, India) from September 2014. This is a critical question for us at Lightspeed GMI, as we depend on the willingness and the openness of our panelists to participate on an ongoing basis in digital consumer research. To date, we have taken the approach of being totally transparent with our members. Working with Ben Farrar, Kantar’s Director of Privacy & Security, we developed the survey to get at what consumers think is happening with their information on mobiles, their specific concerns, and what can be done to improve the situation.
First and foremost, consumers in these four countries feel the risk. These consumers have a broad belief (92%) that the personally identifiable data that is being collected by a wide array of businesses (i.e., mobile, ISPs, online shopping and market research) is being shared with other companies. Additionally, 68% think that governments and/or companies can access their information without permission. They also believe that current regulations aren’t sufficient – 81% of Germans felt that way. Recognizing that the internet and mobile are borderless, these consumers favor globally consistent regulations to be able to be effective.
At the Berlin conference, Otto Hellwig, Chairman of German Society for Online Research, spoke gloomily about the prospects of further regulations on German market research -- indicating its demise if additional restrictions were to be imposed. However, others at the conference raised the benefits and increased ease of being able to conduct research in an internationally consistent regulated environment. Based on the strong sentiments of the public, I have no doubt that regulations and select industry practices will need to adapt to the ensuing rapid technological changes in order to address privacy and security concerns. What will that be? A thoughtful respondent from India put the future prospects this way:
“I just hope you people come up with something that is more flexible considering privacy issues of consumers. What I am trying to point out is that it should not be a matter of black and white; we must have some way to restrict what we want to share and what we do not want to, instead of allowing access to everything or denying access to everything. There must be a middle way out.”