The British public are much more likely to hand over personal data to an organisation they know than one they don't, and are willing to accept a trade-off if it will help science – or themselves.
That's according to a survey carried out by pollsters YouGov for the Open Data Institute (ODI), which asked it to find out what the public thinks about when they're sharing data.
The survey, carried out on 28-29 November and taking in the views of 2,023 adults, found that trusting the body they need to share data with is important to all but 3 per cent of respondents.
And despite the furore around the failed Care.data scheme and concerns about declining trust in the health service, the NHS was the most trusted with a person's data, with 64 per cent saying they would trust it with their data.
In contrast, just 2 per cent would trust media and advertisers, while 10 per cent trusted social media organisations and offline retails.
However, 13 per cent said they wouldn't trust any of the organisations on the list – which also included governments, insurers and medical research charities – with their data.
People were more reticent about sharing data that appears, at least objectively, to give away more information about them as individuals – like their personal tastes and financial or health status. This is especially true for organisations they don't know.
About one in five said they would share their age or ethnicity with a body they didn't know, followed by religion (19 per cent) and name (17 per cent).
In contrast, the idea of passing on medical history to an unknown body was unpalatable for all but 4 per cent of respondents. Some 5 per cent said they'd be OK with sharing credit history and 7 per cent their location data.
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Organisations people knew won more trust: about half of respondents were happy to share their name, age or date of birth with an organisation they knew.
In contrast, just 22 per cent said they would be happy to share their medical records, 23 per cent their credit history and 33 per cent their location data.
Respondents, though, were willing to take a trade-off. Almost half (47 per cent) said they would share data – including medical info – if it would help develop medicines, while 37 per cent would give up details on their health or background if it helped academic understanding of areas like human behaviour and psychology.
But – in what could be seen as a blow to privacy activists – some 28 per cent said they would share their information if it would help monitor crime – even if that meant they were under more surveillance.
Some 24 per cent said they would share more data if it provided them with services to save money, like savings accounts and insurance policies, even if it meant offering details on their spending habits.
The survey also revealed that – despite companies' assertions that people just want a service and don't want to be bamboozled with information – people do want to know more about how their data is used.
A third of respondents said they would feel more comfortable about data sharing if they were given an explanation of how the data will be used or shared, while 18 per cent wanted a step-by-step guide on data sharing from the company.
Jeni Tennison, chief exec of the ODI, said that it wants consumers to "feel more confident and informed" about data so they can use it to make better decisions.
"Data literacy is not a solution for all problems – we will always need strong regulation and well-designed, ethical services – but it is part of the answer to building and retaining trust in data," she said.
"Improving data literacy is partly down to organisations designing services that are far more proactive and transparent in explaining how they use customer data... Additionally, organisations need to be clear about what customers will get in return for sharing data." ®