As our offline and online worlds continue to collide, it’s only natural that online consumers, myself included, are concerned about our personal data privacy, whether on social platforms, financial service websites or even government service sites. The results of the EMC Privacy Index study which we published in the region recently, revealed the responses of 1000 consumers across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These very digitally active nations were surveyed to find out what the balance between privacy and convenience meant to them. I believe technology has to work hard to become more streamlined and intuitive in our daily lives it’s important for technology leaders like EMC to pre-empt consumer concerns in the field of digital privacy and enable businesses to realize the promises of economic growth offered by this highly connected data driven world, so these results are a highly useful guide for the future of online interactions. I predict that businesses which successfully ensure their customers experience worry-free online services will outgrow their competition by a huge margin and will lead in the ever growing e-commerce phenomena.
THE BIG REVEAL
It’s quite telling that people’s responses towards online privacy are very different in different parts of the world. For instance, the six personas evaluated- Social, Financial, Citizen, Medical, Employee and Consumer- show us how different these responses are. I myself am aware of the type of online interaction I engage in and modify my behaviour accordingly. I always take the necessary precautions to insure my private details are as protected as possible whether through limiting the sensitive information I share or actively updating my passwords to protect my accounts.
In the Middle East the value attributed by consumers to privacy is lower than that in the Western hemisphere. In fact, even though people admitted to suffering data breaches, they also admitted they don’t generally bother with basic precautions like password changes which I highly advise them to reconsider. The Privacy Index clearly indicates low consumer confidence in the Middle East where data privacy is concerned but it also highlights the paradox of consumers refusing to relinquish personal information to sites which they demand high levels of services from. A paradox which I believe we need to address sooner rather than later.
While people want their governments to protect their privacy, they don’t mind trading it in for convenience; it’s clear that success will only be achieved through ‘Ethics’! If businesses were to maintain that level of trust from consumers they would see a spike in the demand for their services.
Here are a few recommendations I have for both sides of the online experience;
As barriers continue to be broken between the digital world and real world, the economic value of information will continue to rise. This information and how we use it is at the heart of all businesses. The safeguards and technologies we use to protect consumer privacy online have to be simple enough for the over-50 generation to use and sophisticated enough to outsmart the modern hacker who may abuse their personal data. Social media is widespread today so please be aware that sharing unchecked data in vast quantities can directly reduce your privacy quotient and attract unwanted attention. Privacy versus convenience is the ultimate Catch-22 situation. Businesses have to work hard to earn the public’s trust to steward their information while consumers have to take the necessary precautions to protect their privacy.