Magazine article Marketing

Survey Shows Public Fears over DM Data

Magazine article Marketing

Survey Shows Public Fears over DM Data

Article excerpt

"I think it is quite frightening to think that all this information is somewhere on computer and we don't really know what it says," so comments one member of a qualitative research group questioned by the Henley Centre about the use of personal data.

This, along with 1000 face-to-face interviews, makes up the background research for the Data-culture report sponsored by the Direct Marketing Associations, and launched at their conference on November 8.

The report paints a picture of consumers who are informed and sophisticated, yet also technophobic and contradictory in their feelings about their part, unwilling or otherwise, in the data culture.

Evil necessity

Only 23% believe that companies take any notice if they tick the opt-out box; a mere 28% believe that all, or even most, companies abide by data-protection laws (but, then again, only 11% of them have heard of the Data Protection Act); 54% feel that giving out personal details to companies is a 'necessary evil', and 70% think that even if they didn't give information companies would only 'find out about me without my knowing' anyway.

On the other hand, most (61%) seem happy to supply data in return for better service or discounts; 69% would like to know more about companies they regularly deal with and 58% are happy to give information to a market-research company.

The high mistrust factor comes from fears of inaccuracy, leading at best to unwanted mail, and at worst to incorrect financial information (such as credit listings) being disseminated; of information being passed on to other companies; of being pigeon-holed as a certain 'type' and of the power of communications technology itself.

Nick Rand, an analyst on the report, was surprised: "People had a real overestimation of technology," he says. "They think that if you input in to one computer it will appear somewhere else - and that all computers are linked."

This all has more to do with watching Sandra Bullock in The Net than direct-mail issues. And yet, whether they are correct or not, consumers obviously don't feel that they are in control.

What can be done to allay these fears? The report recommends increased openness by marketers about why information is needed and what it is going to be used for. …

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