As consumers are nearing a breaking point amid increasingly frequent and severe data breaches—from the seminal Cambridge Analytica scandal to the massive Equifax credit breach to the September 2019 Ecuador data leak that compromised nearly the entire country—the dawn of a new era that prioritizes privacy is fast approaching.
“The Privacy Era” explores how, in response to rising consumer discomfort with the way personal information is tracked and traded online, a new data ecosystem is emerging, including a new value exchange for consumers, a fresh set of rules for brands and a repositioning of the digital identity as equal to the physical body.
The value of data
“Data has become the most valuable asset on planet Earth, yet all of us as individuals, the people who produce that asset, have no rights to its value at the moment,” data transparency advocate Brittany Kaiser tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.
As consumers are beginning to realize the value of their digital behavior and information, a new economy built around data is emerging, with data as the primary capital.
New business structures
As data privacy becomes a priority for consumers, the emerging infrastructure for ethical data use is fundamentally restructuring industries and business needs.
As consumers increasingly live online, the idea of data as a cold and impersonal series of zeroes and ones is falling away; instead, data is increasingly acknowledged as a deeply personal pillar of digital identities.
“Our digital and physical lives are merging and we need a digital identity solution that reflects this reality,” says Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence at Mastercard.
With data security weighing on people’s emotional wellbeing, the latest brand initiatives are redesigning products and platforms to facilitate digital self-care and pave a healthier path forward through the data landscape.
“Privacy is one of those issues that’s constantly humming in the back of people’s minds—which, over time, can be just as, if not more, damaging to their psyche as major spikes in anxiety,” Joe Toscano, founder and chief vision officer at The Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network (Beacon), tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.
To understand consumer attitudes towards data privacy and security, Wunderman Thompson Data conducted a survey, which fielded from September 25—October 3, 2019 among 1,501 US adults age 18+.
Key findings include:
- Data security is a top concern; 58% of Americans are worried about the security of personal information, compared to 52% concerned about current national political leadership, 51% about gun violence, 47% about current cost of living and 45% by the quality of education.
- 89% of Americans think the way companies acquire and use data seems sneaky.
- 89% think companies are deliberately vague about how the “data for benefit” exchange really works.
- 84% feel that over the past few years, companies have received more control over their personal information and data than they have.
- Only 38% feel they have full control of their personal information and data.
“I believe data creation, data hygiene, research design, et cetera, will become the new blue-collar jobs of the future,” predicts Toscano. “Similar to a janitor cleaning a building, we will need data hygienists. Similar to a coal miner, we will need people to create data and find new places to source diverse data sets. We will need cybersecurity professionals to protect us just like police today. We will need information architects to help us navigate and create stories with all of the data in order to make it accessible to the public, not just machines.”