Americans far more willing to hand over personal data

As long as it translates into a better user experience

Americans are outspoken in their concerns about what companies are doing with the vast amounts of personal data they're collecting, but more than half are apparently OK with allowing organizations access if doing so gives them a better user experience.

Those Americans are joining a growing group of people worldwide who perceive a benefit from giving companies greater access to such information as healthcare and financial data, even if they don't always have an understanding of the technology being used to secure it.

This is according to a survey released this month by Axway, whose API management platform and related products are aimed at enterprises that want to securely move data across their IT environments, including the cloud.

For the company's Global Consumer Survey, Axway commissioned Propeller Insights to survey more than 5,000 adults in the United States, Brazil, Germany, France, and the UK. What the vendor found was that despite ongoing concerns about security and privacy, consumers are increasingly embracing the idea of open banking, financing, and healthcare.

"One major takeaway is that close to 60 per cent of people globally believe it's worth allowing companies to access their personal data if it means a better user experience," Vince Padua, Axway's chief technology and innovation officer, wrote in a blog post.

"We found people were overwhelmingly supportive of having more control over who sees their personal data, and they want to better understand who's accessing it at any moment. A whopping 90 per cent of respondents wish they knew what specific data companies have collected about them, and many have concerns that their online data may not be secure."

US citizens were among the most comfortable with giving enterprises access to their personal data, despite concerns that have given rise to such legislation as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and a proposal in the US Senate to install more consumer data protections. According to the survey, 59 per cent of Americans said it was worthwhile allowing companies access to their information if it meant a better experience. In contrast, Brazil was the most open – with 75 per cent agreeing – while British citizens were split 50-50 and Germans came in at only 48 per cent in favor.

American openness to the trend comes even as the country is awash with concerns not only about how their data is shared and used but more broadly the information that they are given every day, Padua told The Register.

"Certainly you could argue that the news around elections and how data was used to better target individuals, to share information, concerns about misinformation with respect to the pandemic, etc." is top of mind in the country, he said. "There's a lot of swirling sentiments about concern about how data ultimately is being used, even though, again, the US is probably the most open in sharing this data in exchange for a better customer experience."

That convenience is driving consumers toward more openness. Padua pointed to data that found that 73 per cent of users worldwide use their Google or Facebook accounts to log into other apps to avoid having to create more logins that they have to deal with.

They also see convenience in multiple areas as a key reason for allowing organizations more access to personal data. More than three-quarters want healthcare providers to have such patient information to drive not only convenience but also improve care and reduce human error, according to the survey.

In addition, 84 per cent of respondents say they want "control of their financial data, and banks should not prevent the movement of money between other financial services – principles that are basic tenets of open banking," Padua wrote in his blog post.

It's also an indication that while some consumers are increasingly comfortable with companies having access to their personal data, they also want greater control over it and more transparency over who is using it. They are also gaining more confidence in the technology used to secure the data, even if they don't always understand it.

For example, Padua noted to The Register that the traditional – and highly insecure – ways for banks to aggregate checking, savings or investment accounts involved screen-scraping and sharing users' credentials. That is changing.

"There has been this ongoing move towards greater security through tokenization and through APIs to get away from the screen-scraping and a batch-level approach," he said.

"Even if you understood just how insecure batch and/or screen-scraping methods may be – whether that is in financial, whether it is in healthcare or insurance or a host of other industries – the technology is changing. Enterprises are getting better and better at this. They're using more modern techniques."

There also are more regulations – such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – and industry standards that are combining with greater automation and transparency to improve the security and privacy of the data. As this becomes better known, "sentiment will change. They'll feel a little bit more trustworthy and more secure in sharing this information and recognizing that they have to give up some verification to have a better experience," Padua said.

Axway is a proponent of what it calls an "open everything" approach, leveraging an open API management platform to secure data and protect privacy as consumers increasingly embrace such trends as open banking and healthcare.

"We know people want brilliant, convenient digital experiences. They've come to expect them. But it's essential to maintain trust by providing watertight security and making sure people remain in control of their data." ®

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