Pt. 4: Do people trust technology in the Connected Society?

Hot off the press – our new Connected Society trend report of 2018 is out! To be customer-centric in the modern digital age, brands should be developing innovations and big ideas that are true to the brand and founded on insights that resonate and inspire with real human beings. In this trend report about the current Connected Society, we explored the drivers behind people’s use of technology, and in turn the new behaviours created from people’s use of technology. What is driving people’s addictive use of connective devices and in turn, how are people defining control over their use of technology? In the next few blog posts, we will be sharing our insights (in bitesize format) to these questions. But you can also download the full trend report here at this link.

The main theme of our Connected Society trend report is that people have an ambivalent relationship with technology. On one hand, they are addicted to using connected devices. Meanwhile, people are becoming more aware and increasingly questioning the role that technology should have on their lives in the state of constant connectivity. In people’s search for control over technology, not only are they questioning and redefining their physical interaction with technology (e.g., unplugging for off-line moments), they are also judging their emotional relationship with technology – trust.

The past year of 2017 has seen political upheaval, fake news, confusion and social change.  People are now living in a connected, post-truth world, where public sentiment is characterised by a lack of trust. So in this social climate where distrust and suspicion is the default, who can people trust?  Apparently, not governments, businesses, NGO’s, or the media.  In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 has revealed that all four major institutions (i.e., government, media, businesses, and NGO’s) have reached the lowest levels of public trust.  But what about technology?

“In the last 18 months the conversation about security and privacy has moved from the tech pages to the front pages of newspapers… [and]… we’re looking for businesses to be more transparent about what data is being collected, how it’s being used and with whom it’s being shared” said John Curran from the consultancy Accenture [Source: BBC].

According to a Pew Research poll, almost three-quarters of Americans said it is “very important” that they have the right to control who can access information about them, and 65% also say it is “very important” to control what information is collected about about them. Moreover, research by Kantar TNS reveals that when it comes to data, consumers are increasingly concerned about the amount of personal data that companies know about them, and many also express the sentiment that they are on the losing end of an unfair exchange. Ironically, oftentimes people’s concerns over their privacy do not always translate into actual behaviour.  Look for example at the popular online dating app, Tinder, for instance. When these 50 million signed up with the app, did they consider or are they even aware that the app is potentially collecting 800 pages worth of personal information about them?

Describing this intention-behaviour gap, researchers call this contradiction between people’s attitudes towards privacy and their actual behaviour the “privacy paradox”. But then again, research shows that it would like approximately 200 – 250 hours (equivalent to a month at work each year) if people were to  actually stop and read all of them for every website that they visited. No wonder the privacy paradox exists… In anywise, despite the privacy paradox, if consumers voice that they have a need for control and that they have concerns over the privacy on their personal data, it would be arguably favourable for companies to provide their customers a great experience in return. Indeed, research by Capgemini Consulting reveals that an estimation of 64% of customers were ready to share their personal data but only under the condition that it helps improve the quality of the customer experience offered to them.

It appears that people have an ambivalent relationship with technology – they see the benefits and exciting opportunities technology could offer, but are becoming more aware of the potential risks that could threaten and/or infringe on their autonomy and control. So what can brands do with the knowledge that technology is raising concerns about trust and privacy?  Give transparency and reassure people about what you do with data and technology. Reassure people and give them a sense of control over their (digital) life. In short, make sure you are trustworthy.

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