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Consumer attitudes on data privacy shift amid COVID-19: survey

More consumers are seeking out organizations that use their data to help others


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According to the EY Global Consumer Privacy Survey, 50 per cent of consumers say that the pandemic has made them more willing to part with their personal data, especially if they know it’s contributing to research efforts and community wellness.

Though, that vigilance varies by generation: 45 per cent of Millennials and 49 per cent of Generation Z have shared COVID-19 health data with an organization, compared with just 21 per cent of Baby Boomers.

“The discussion around data sharing and how it can help fight the virus has created more consumer awareness about how organizations are using their data and the potential benefit it delivers in return,” said Nicola Vizioli, EY Canada privacy leader, in a prepared statement. “As the pandemic ushers in a new normal for data exchange, organizations must rethink data privacy to meet evolving consumer expectations and anticipate their future needs.”

The global survey reveals 54 per cent of consumers say they are more conscious of the personal data shared through digital communication than they were before the start of COVID-19. Respondents say high-profile breaches (43 per cent) and measures taken as a result of the pandemic (43 per cent) — such as health-tracking apps — are the biggest drivers of data privacy awareness.

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As awareness increases, security, control and trust remain key. When asked about the most important factor when choosing to share personal data with an organization, consumers point to secure collection and storage (63 per cent), control over what data is being shared (57 per cent) and trust in the company collecting their data (51 per cent).

“The pandemic is shifting consumers’ expectations of data privacy,” said Vizioli. “Organizations that want to maximize the collection of personal data need to align data privacy policies with the value-exchange imperative. Those that cannot provide a clear benefit, data security and transparency assurances may start to see customers go elsewhere.”

Going forward, these expectations will be met with renewed regulations. The Strengthening the protection of personal information for Canadians report shares that Bill C-11 will enact a new privacy law, the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA), that aims to modernize protections to Canadians’ personal information and give individuals more control and transparency.

“While not yet law, the CPPA sends a strong signal that Canada is keeping trust and privacy a priority,” said Vizioli. “As businesses juggle to meet health and safety needs while delivering a captivating experience for consumers, they should start working to understand and plan for the operational impact and opportunities arising from new expectations and regulations. Planning ahead will allow companies to design and implement the necessary privacy controls that address the trust, transparency and benefit that today’s consumers are demanding.”