Harvey Anderson, Chief Legal Officer at AVG Technologies takes a look at the MEF Global Consumer Trust Report 2016 released at CES this week in Las Vegas and asks who will step up to the challenge regarding consumers’ responsibility to secure their online data and privacy?

As CES gets underway, it’s even more apparent that 2016 is projected to be the year of the “reluctant sharer”. The overwhelming common denominator of the conference seems to be cybersecurity, whether regarding drones, autonomous sport cars, or wearables; practically every device announced at CES has some type of Internet connection, adding to the already-reluctant sharer’s worries.

The latest MEF Global Consumer Trust Report 2016, in partnership with AVG, addresses digital citizenship – consumers’ responsibility to secure their online data and privacy. As an industry, are we sufficiently holding up our end of the deal, our responsibility to the consumers?

    I predict that as high-profile hacks, like those on Talk Talk, Ashley Madison, the US Office of Personnel Management, and even the FBI, continue to dominate mainstream media conversations, fewer and fewer consumers will be willing to take this ‘devil’s bargain’ of privacy in exchange for services. And who can blame them?

One of the most striking findings in this year’s report, is the rise of the “reluctant sharer,” a growing 41% who don’t want to give up their personal information but know they need to in order to use an app. While consumers recognize more than ever how vital it is to protect themselves online, they feel caught. In just a single year, 20% more consumers shared personal information they would rather not have, just to be able to use apps and services.

With innovation in the connected world happening at an incredible pace, is resignation really the feeling we want customers to have at the beginning of our relationship with them? Year over year, this report has revealed a decrease in consumer trust, and in 2015, more people than ever (36%) said that lack of trust is the number one reason they decided against using software or apps. As an industry we can do better.

We needn’t look far to see how this might play out. Consumer distrust, leading to complete intolerance, has irrevocably disrupted the business model of digital publishing, in regards to ad blockers. While controversy surrounding the phenomenon is nothing new, Apple’s recent decision to allow ad-blocking apps has tipped the issue into mainstream consciousness and forced an entire industry to re-evaluate how it operates; and, perhaps most important, the value it offers to the people who make it all possible: their readers (consumers).

most_trustI predict that as high-profile hacks, like those on Talk Talk, Ashley Madison, the US Office of Personnel Management, and even the FBI, continue to dominate mainstream media conversations, fewer and fewer consumers will be willing to take this ‘devil’s bargain’ of privacy in exchange for services. And who can blame them? In fact, nearly half (47%) of everyone surveyed for this year’s report said they’d be willing to pay for an app that guaranteed not to share any collected data. That number is surely on the rise as consumers at large become more aware of the risks.

Given all this, I think the real question is not whether 2016 will signal a tipping point for consumers, but whether it will be the tipping point for us, the industry.

We, in mobile, have to decide if we want more than simply to avoid digital publishing’s troubles. We must put our customers first, and go beyond being only “good enough” at protecting them. Transparency and education need to go hand-in-hand with an industry-wide commitment to set, adhere to, and hold each other accountable for honorable, human-centered behavior principles.

Harvey Anderson

Chief Legal Officer

AVG Technologies

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It is no longer enough to show consumers the “what” of data collection and sharing—we need to explain the purpose and consumer benefit of doing so, without spin, in real-life terms.

Who will step up to the challenge?

Ultimately, people should not have to trade privacy and security to benefit from the wealth of data-enabled services that are available now and on the horizon. Our customers are speaking loud and clear. Will we listen?

This post originally appeared on the AVG Now Blog and is reused here with kind permission.

MEF’s third annual Global Consumer Trust Survey in association with AVG Technologies studies the behaviours and attitudes of over 5000 consumers in eight countries including both developed and growth markets. Its analysis identifies key market trends and helps its members better understand the mindset of the end user and, crucially, how this is likely to impact the mobile ecosystem.

The study is a comprehensive look at privacy and security from a consumer perspective in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, UK and US, and is available for members to download for free now. Non-members may also download the executive summary.

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