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Social networks face user confidence crisis over personal data ownership, says EY survey

Social networks are facing a user confidence crisis when it comes to the use of personal data, with the majority (92 per cent) of UK adults uncomfortable sharing their data with them, according to an EY study.

The survey, which surveyed 2,000 UK adults regarding their use of Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, and Tumblr, revealed people have become more cautious when it comes to sharing data online, particularly on social networks with only eight per cent of respondents stating they are happy to share their personal information with social networks.

Trust in search engines was even lower at seven per cent, while only five per cent said they trust mobile apps with personal data.

Half of the respondents claimed their use of social networks has made them less open to sharing personal data and 40 per cent now restrict all access to their personal data on social media sites.

Steve Wilkinson, managing partner, UK & Ireland client service at EY, said people are more sensitive when it comes to sharing personal data on online channels.

“The rise of digital natives – those that have grown up with an inherent understanding of technology – means that today’s customers understand the dangers of sharing information online and try to protect it by restricting the access private companies have to their personal data,” he said.

Meanwhile people trust government bodies more than private sector companies in general when it comes to the ownership of their personal data, despite the high-profile data security breaches that hit the press in 2013, according to the survey.

More than half (55 per cent) of respondents said they are more comfortable sharing their personal data with central government bodies such as the NHS, and HM Revenue and Customers, than private sector companies that provide daily services.

Just over a quarter of them said they would be happy to share their personal details with their energy provider, with just over 32 per cent happy to share data with financial institutions, while only 20 per cent said they would be happy for supermarkets to access their data.

Wilkinson added: “What our survey shows is a shift in attitudes and practices towards how consumers treat their personal data, and the access they will allow to their data, both now and in future.

“Despite well publicised government mis-steps towards data privacy, consumers still appear more willing to share personal data with public sector organisations. On the other hand, there is a growing trend to revoke the access that private companies have to such information. As a result, we are likely to see a change in which bodies have the greatest access to customer information in the next five-to-10 years.”

The survey also polled 748 senior business decision makers, which in turn revealed there is confusion among the business executives polled regarding which organisations will have access to customer information in the future.

Three per cent of the business decision makers polled said they expect local government to become a valuable source of customer data 10 years from now and a further four per cent of business executives predict that central government will become a provider of customer insight.

A further 16 per cent of senior business decision makers anticipate that customers themselves will be an important source, while 12 per cent identify social networks as a viable option. In total, 10 per cent of business executives cited search engines as one of the most valuable sources used to gain customer insight in the future.

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