Media network survey: data usage and privacy top agenda

Customers worry about their data and are sharing less, but companies could be doing more to enhance protection.

ski mask robber computer data

Our survey finds a disconnect between consumer and media outlook on our data, and in a sizable minority of businesses, a lack of protection of that data. Photograph: Alamy

Back in October, some of you may remember that we surveyed the Media Network readers and members. It was a broad litmus test on a variety of issues facing the industry – ranging from data usage, to remote working, privacy, and pressures on creativity – to see what’s top of the industry’s collective mind. The most resounding set of interconnecting responses were related to data and its use.

data sharing fear graph


First up, we found that only 15% of members surveyed feel that customers are becoming more willing to share their data – the vast majority feel that consumers are clamming up in the face of companies requesting increasing amounts of data from us. Interestingly, 42% believe that we’ve hit a sharing plateau, with 33% convinced that we’re all sharing less.

Next we asked respondents whether their customers are worried about their data privacy. With more than two-thirds saying yes, it’s clear that customers are concerned, and consequently it’s no surprise that they are sharing less.

Is it because companies aren’t communicating how they’re safeguarding data, or because customers simply don’t trust any assurances in the light of high-profile security breaches, such as the Sony hack surrounding the release of The Interview?

Incidents like this remain stained in the public consciousness and are only likely to increase in frequency. A new Snowden document has revealed a secret US cybersecurity report, which argued that there is a clear imbalance between the development of offensive versus defensive capabilities, “due to the slower than expected adoption … of encryption and other technologies”.

David Cameron’s recent attack on secure communications will further dent the chances of a customer handing over their private data, for fear of it being shared against their will – even if they otherwise trust and value the brand in question.

All of these developments should give companies cause for concern, given the number of critical business areas that now turn to incoming customer data for support.

The majority of businesses surveyed are now relying upon customer data to inform content creation, to generate leads, and to improve customer service. If data dries up, then everybody ends up a loser.

Given high-profile hacks and warnings on encryption, it’s of great concern that only two-thirds of respondents are confident that their companies are anonymising customer data – with the remainder either retaining user-identifying personal information, or not being sure what they do.

Consequently, there seems to be a disconnect between consumer and media outlook on our data, and in a sizable minority of business, a lack of protection of that data. Many global information security issues are out of the hands of individual businesses, but as a starting point, we must do everything we can to anonymise and user data – not only to protect consumers’ information, but to improve perception of that protection – and ultimately, trust.

data strategy over reliance graph


Our survey also revealed some contradictions between perception and practice in companies’ work. We found that more than 65% of those surveyed claim to use the data they collect both to inform content creation and improve customer service. Despite this, less than 50% are incorporating data analysts in their creative processes, suggesting that the data that is being collected with the purpose of improving content may have little bearing on the eventual creative outcome. Yet, only 20% of respondents believe that an over-reliance on data can harm creativity. Which begs the question, why are companies not better incorporating the data they are collating in their creative decisions?

Despite this, 44% of respondents place oversight of data management with marketing teams, rather than with sales or IT, who amass 25% between them. These figures suggest that the importance of data when planning campaigns is understood. However, with more than 40% of respondents admitting to publishing content without any clear advance strategy, it’s clear that for many companies, appropriate planning for the usage of what is collected requires considerably more thought.

Source: Media network survey: data usage and privacy top agenda

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