Survey: 93% Want Marketers to Ask Permission to Use Personal Data

A new survey out from NBC and the Wall Street Journal reflects the ambivalence Americans feel about the tech industry and its data-for-access business model. The findings are discussed in two parallel pieces: “Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down” (NBC) and the even more strident “Americans Hate Social Media but Can’t Give It Up” (WSJ).

When asked which of three big tech companies they trusted to protect their personal data, Amazon polled the best. That was followed closely by Google and then the US government (not a tech company). Facebook brought up the rear: 60% said they didn’t trust the company with their personal information “at all.”

WSJ poll about social

Despite this apparent distrust of Facebook, usage figures haven’t budged. In the same survey last year, 68% of respondents said they used social media “once a day or more often.” The number in this year’s survey was 69%. And clearly Facebook ad revenues have not suffered as a result of its various privacy scandals over the past few years.

Perhaps the most significant finding in the survey, however, is that more than 90% said tech companies should “get permission before sharing or selling access to a consumers personal information and online activity.” As the California Consumer Privacy Act takes effect in 2020 and more states pass privacy laws — putting increasing pressure on the US government to create comprehensive privacy legislation — there will be greater emphasis on opt-in vs. opt-out in those laws. (I guarantee that any federal legislation will be opt-out, however.)

WSJ poll about social

Another striking finding goes to the heart of the argument often used to justify personal data collection: it’s a conscious trade-off for free access to services. Nearly three-fourths (74%) rejected the argument that personal data collection is an acceptable trade for “free or low-cost services and better products that fit our needs and interests.”

WSJ social media survey

These two privacy related findings mark a significant change in consumer attitudes that has been years in the making. (There are additional findings about social media that you can see here.)

The survey also asked about use of Google Home and Alexa devices: 26% yes, 74% no. That would translate into roughly 65 million US adults, indicating substantial room for growth.

Finally, despite the concerns about privacy and ambivalence about some of the tech giants, survey respondents expressed generally positive views about technology and the future in the abstract: 60% were upbeat and “hopeful” about “the changes technology may bring in the next five years.”

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