How much do we really care about data breaches?

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Throughout 2018, the news has been saturated with headlines on data breaches. From Facebook’s shame at the hands of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to hundreds of other breaches involving Google, Quora and T-Mobile. In the wake of such high-profile scandals, one in twenty Brits allegedly de-activated their Facebook accounts, with 67% of them expressing a concern over what their personal data was used for online. (Syzygy, 2018)

In the Advertising industry, opinion leaders have been quick to announce an almost revolutionary fervor moving against social media and online platforms in favour of more traditional communications like broadcast television and outdoor advertising. Indeed, this is the very reason Facebook made its now infamous public apology on printed media. They clearly felt that by drawing on the heritage of traditional media and its reputation for sincerity, their message would be taken seriously.

In the technology sector, Huawei, and more recently Apple, have come under fire for allegedly ‘spying’ on their customers. President Trump has even signed a bill banning government use of Huawei for fears of Chinese intelligence interfering. Apple on the other hand has recently come under criticism for reacting so slowly to it’s FaceTime flaw, which dubbed ‘FacePalm’ by it’s 14 year old discoverer, allowed people to listen in on you before you accepted their call.

We often take for granted that the press’ criticism of these companies is indicative of public opinion’s wider despairing of data harvesting. However, research that we commissioned found this is not necessarily the case.

We posed a question to consumers; ‘would you rather your smartphone data improved your user experience, or would you rather you had a greater deal of privacy?’

Surprisingly, only one third of consumers (36%) came back saying they’d rather have a more basic user experience without worrying about privacy breaches. This definitely didn’t seem to follow the news’ suggestion that people were whole-heartedly against data companies garnering personal data.

In fact, the mixed data suggests that people don’t actually have an opinion on it at all. Whilst data breaches aren’t ever going to top of anybody’s list, our evidence suggests that the fear of a breach isn’t enough to encourage a mass abandonment of providing our smart phone’s data if it means our user experience will suffer.

A quick look at Facebook’s active users worldwide and you will see that their users have continued to increase in numbers, sitting at a record high of 2.3 billion users (Statista, 2018). This is entirely contrary to the rejection of the platform that has been reported in the media.

Although the media would have us believe that the majority of us are up in arms about our data and breaches of security, the reality is, that when consumers are faced with the prospect of losing their seamless user experience they have come to know and love, they really aren’t that fussed…

Summer Taylor is a strategist at Atomic London.

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