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Privacy Perspectives | Consumers say trust depends on transparency Related reading: Reframing data privacy



Consumers worldwide say data transparency is a top priority when it comes to trusting organizations with their personal data. They look to their national government to take a primary role in protecting data and continue to be very supportive of privacy laws in their countries. Consumers are also increasingly taking action to protect their own data by exercising their privacy rights and switching providers when necessary. They tend to support artificial intelligence and automated decision-making, recognizing the vast benefits these innovative technologies offer. However, consumers are very concerned about how AI is being applied and used and the effect it can have on their privacy and rights. In fact, many have already lost trust in organizations over their AI use. Finally, consumers are evenly split on the value of data localization requirements when it adds cost to the products and services they buy.

These are some of the findings from the recently released "Cisco 2022 Consumer Privacy Survey," our fourth annual review of consumer privacy issues. This year’s research draws on 2,600 anonymous responses across 12 countries.

Trust depends on transparency

The survey found that 39% of respondents chose “data transparency” as the top thing organizations can do to build trust with them regarding how their personal data is used and protected. This was nearly twice as many who selected “refraining from selling personal information” (21%) or “complying with all privacy laws” (20%). Consumers continue to care deeply about how their data is treated as 81% associate how their data is treated with how they are treated as a customer. Unfortunately, nearly half of the respondents still do not believe they can adequately protect their data. The number one reason (79%) is that it’s too hard for them to figure out what companies are doing with their data. 

Consumers take action to protect data

While many consumers say they care about privacy and are willing to spend time or money to protect it, a significant group of respondents (37%) have taken the more difficult step of ending their relationship with a company or provider over their data policies or practices. In addition, 24% say they have exercised their data subject access rights to inquire about the data companies have about them, and 14% have requested changes or deletions to that data.

Mixed support and concerns with AI applications

We found that 43% of respondents said AI can be useful in improving their lives and 54% are even willing to share their anonymized personal data to improve AI products. Yet, 60% are concerned about how businesses use AI today, and 65% say they have already lost trust in organizations due to their AI practices. Fortunately, there are some steps organizations can take to maintain trust despite their AI use, as noted below.

Recommendations for organizations:

  • Invest in transparency. Show your customers where they can find your company’s privacy policies and tell them in easy-to-understand ways exactly how you use their data as this is critical for earning and building their trust.
  • Help to ensure your customers are aware of relevant privacy laws and their rights. Individuals who know about these protections are more likely to trust organizations with their personal data and have confidence their data is protected.
  • Adopt measures to ensure the responsible application and use of AI. According to the research, positive steps to apply and use AI responsibly include implementing an AI governance framework, providing transparency on how AI is applied and used in products and services, and enabling customers to opt-out of the specific application.
  • Evaluate the costs and legal alternatives, if any, to data localization requirements. These requirements may not be worth their cost to many consumers, and it is still unclear if they contribute to greater safety and privacy.

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