APAC consumers don’t trust you with their personal data

APAC consumers
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ITEM: Consumers in APAC are increasingly wary of sharing their personal data with digital service providers, and are becoming less tolerant of companies that don’t do enough to protect that data.

That’s according to a YouGov survey from digital security startup Imperva, which found that in an increasingly digital world, consumers worldwide feel trapped by the requirement to share their personal data to access digital services. In APAC (which here means Singapore and Australia), 67% of respondents feel they have no choice in the matter.

Moreover, as the number of digital services grows, the more companies they have to share that data with, and it’s already reached the point where it’s impossible for consumers to keep track of them all. Over half (54%) of APAC respondents said they share their data with so many companies online every day that they can’t possibly verify each one’s track record of how well they look after and protect personal data.

Unsurprisingly, 37% said their trust in digital service providers’ willingness to protect their personal data has decreased over the past five years. And 50% of them said they would stop using a company’s services following a serious data breach (and some added that have already done so).

The survey also found that APAC consumers trust some organizations more than others. At the bottom of the list are retailers and online gaming – only 5% of APAC respondents trust these two groups to keep private information safe, and just 8% of APAC residents trust social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Financial organisations are more trusted, with 41% of APAC consumers saying they “completely trust these organisations to keep their private information absolutely private.” Perhaps surprisingly, governments ranked higher on the trust meter, with 44% of respondents saying they trust government organizations to protect their data.

The survey also says that two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA) makes a difference – APAC consumers expressed a greater degree of comfort in sharing information with digital services and apps that use 2FA/MFA at levels consistently above the global average across different categories of information including health, financial and personal information.

One interesting caveat to the study is the types of personal data involved. Usually, conversations about protecting personal data refers to sensitive data like contact information, financial and health data that could be used to hack your accounts. The Imperva survey has more intimate personal data in mind – i.e. stuff you say in chat apps, like trashing your boss, or having sexual fantasies about your boss, or anything that could potentially ruin you if anyone else found out about it. Well over a third (37%) of APAC consumers said they have discussed private topics using a cloud messaging app or service, and 93% admit they could face serious consequences if their private discussions online were leaked, from losing their jobs to ruining relationships, depression and blackmail.

The glib response would be that nothing is private on the internet, so don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want made public. But that’s not really how the digital world work – and this will be even more the case as we hurl ourselves towards the Web3 metaverse that promises to blur the lines between our analog and digital lives. Social media companies regularly entice us to share our lives online and give us the tools to do so easily, and make use of whatever data they can get from us – the metaverse will be no different.

As long as data collection is the price of admission, users expect companies to take data security and privacy seriously – and, if this survey is anything to go by, will take their business elsewhere if companies can’t live up to that basic responsibility.

The catch, of course, is that some digital services are notoriously more difficult to quit than others – particularly the social media companies building the metaverse. Imperva urges companies to take data security seriously and adopt a data-centric security approach as part of their strategy – but Facebook is a textbook example of data misuse and leakage, and threats by users to leave Facebook didn’t motivate it to change its ways nearly as much as regulatory pressure.

On the other hand, many digital services aren’t as big or essential as Facebook, so for those particular companies, be warned that APAC consumers don’t like having to hand over their personal data to companies they don’t trust. Better not give them a reason to distrust you.

The survey report is here.

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