One fifth of Europeans 'quite willing' to share personal data

27 July 2020 4 min. read

While consumers are increasingly receptive to having their data shared, variations still emerge with respect to the nature of data in question and the demographic segment being surveyed. This is according to new research by Deloitte commissioned by Ahold Delhaize.

The study by the consulting firm and food retail group surveyed more than 15,000 consumers across 15 European markets to try and gauge attitudes towards data sharing. The study is set in the context of increasing demands for personalised customer experience, which is offset by growing concerns around data privacy.

On average, between 20% and 25% of consumers across the region are willing to share their data, which already reflects a tentative outlook. Nevertheless, distinct variations play out with respect to country, demographic and nature of data. For instance, more consumers are willing to share data in the UK, France and Denmark than there are in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium.

Percentage of consumers who are “somewhat willing” to share their data, by country

Leading the way for openness to data sharing are Romania and Greece, where 38% and 35% respectively are somewhat willing to share their personal data. Across the continent, meanwhile, younger consumers are more open to sharing data, possibly owing to more familiarity with digital channels of consumption.

This is evidenced by the direct correlation between the frequency of online shopping and the willingness to share data. Nevertheless, throughout the consumer base and even among the youth, the nature of data and the reasons for sharing have a significant bearing on attitudes.

Willingness to share data is very much linked with online purchasing activity. Online stores and other businesses use this data to tailor suggestions and personalise the purchase experience – something that is increasingly in demand amongst consumers. Not surprisingly then, most consumers give the green light for data about product purchases and frequency therein.

Willingness to share different types of data

Other types of data with which consumers are liberal include education information, ethnicity, relationship status, as well as lifestyle-related information such as smoking & alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, height and weight. In general, lifestyle data is in the open as it allows for exposure to products that might enhance or facilitate daily experiences.

What’s off the table

At the other end of the spectrum, consumers are less willing to share actual contact details or location, details of their health, while social media activity and financial transactions are completely off the table. In part, these preferences can be explained for a large part by the trust they place in the organisations that manage this data.

For instance, consumers are far more willing to share their data with medical services, the government or grocery retailers than they are with financial services companies or social media platforms. According to Deloitte and Ahold Delhaize, these stark differences boil down to the still ambiguous world of data ethics and what justifies data sharing.

Willingness to share personal data with different types of organisations

Social media companies, for example, have come under fire recently for selling consumer data to a variety of interested parties. Since the data is in the public domain, it is considered free to use, while the relatively immature regulatory framework around data sharing has failed to clarify what constitutes justified data sharing. For consumers, consent remains key, and the liberties taken by social media networks might explain the lack of willingness to share this data.

“Just because data has been generated in one context for one purpose, and may be public, this does not mean that the same data can be given to another organization for a different purpose. The ubiquity of data sharing and the lack of transparency about how it is used (or for what it is used) are two reasons why consumers and regulators are starting to demand more control and choice over personal data and its use,” said the report.

According to Aimee van Wynsberghe, Associate Professor in Ethics of Technology at TU Delft, “it is time for companies to be more transparent about what data they are collecting, what they are doing with it, what third-party data they are purchasing, and how are they leveraging it.”

Discussions around data ethics are well underway in Europe and across the world, which are likely to delineate the line between what is legal under data regulations and what is ethical in the eyes of consumers. According to the researchers, the increasing digitalisation of consumer activity is likely to accentuate the need for such a demarcation.