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MEF’s 9th Annual Global Trust Study was carried out in January and February 2023. On behalf of MEF, On Device Research surveyed 8,450 smartphone users, 650 in each of 13 markets. Where appropriate year-on-year comparisons are made based on the 10 markets that have remained consistent over time.

The study is the barometer for consumer attitudes and behaviours towards trust in personal data on mobile. Field research was carried out in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the USA.

Key Lessons for the Industry

  • Don’t Be Complacent – In spite of increased usage of mobile apps and services, there remains a great deal of user concern about sharing personal data. It should not be forgotten that users would engage more fully in mobile life if their concerns were addressed.
  • Systems Built On Data Are At Risk Of Underperforming Or Failing – User reticence to share data poses a risk to any organisation seeking to leverage artificial intelligence or build systems on data such as recommendation engines, advertising or mobile intelligence. All will be less powerful unless users share their data freely and willingly.
  • Users Still Need To Take More Active Control – Users still tend to manage risk by abstaining from data sharing, with few exercising true ‘control’ over their data. There seems to be an issue of proactive engagement, and a continuing challenge around education.

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About Assurant

Assurant, Inc. (NYSE: AIZ) is a leading global provider of lifestyle and housing solutions that support, protect and connect major consumer purchases. Anticipating  the evolving needs of consumers, Assurant partners with the world’s leading brands to develop innovative products and services and to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

A Fortune 500 company with a presence in 21 countries, Assurant offers mobile device solutions; extended service contracts; vehicle protection services; pre-funded funeral insurance; renters insurance; lender-placed insurance products; and other specialty products. The Assurant Foundation strengthens communities by supporting charitable partners that help protect where people live and can thrive, connect with local resources, inspire inclusion and prepare leaders of the future.

  • Dramatise Benefits Beyond Addressing Risk – Few users currently appreciate the benefits of empowerment solutions such as Personal Information Management Systems, beyond preventing harm, and as a result these tools garner muted interest. There’s an opportunity for the industry to dramatise the benefits of enhanced convenience as well as the prevention of harm.
  • Social Media Giants Must Show Care For Users, Not Just Data – As social media strengthens its position as the most prevalent and frequent mobile activity, increasing numbers of users feel their security and privacy are exposed. It is incumbent upon social media companies to adopt a leadership role in addressing perceived shortcomings on data transparency and trustworthiness.

Key Findings

  • Trust In Data Sharing Is Weak

The Global Trust Index, a construct based on user perception, currently stands at 54%. This symbolises that trust is weak for almost half of mobile users. The strongest component of the index is awareness of how personal data may be used, with several indicators suggesting there may be an increasing understanding of risk among mobile users.

  • Increased Mobile Use Is Accompanied By Heightened Data Sharing Concerns

The perceived value, ease and convenience of services has led to increased usage in many markets; however, data sharing concerns have also heightened. Two thirds of mobile users are concerned about the amount of data collected about them and avoid sharing their information when possible.

  • Users Still Lack Knowledge Of Tools And Services That Could Help Them

Over half of mobile users claim they have been receiving more messages, education and options about how to keep their personal data secure. Yet many users claim they still lack knowledge about tools and services that could help them. Protective data management actions have only slightly increased, with many users uncertain they are much safer for having taken them.

  • Data Abstinence Is How Users Assert Control

The vast majority of mobile users have some level of concern for remaining in control of the data they share – only 12% say they do not worry about this. Yet most are not achieving true control over the data they share with apps and services. The top three factors that provide a sense of control all centre around abstaining from sharing information where the user does not feel comfortable.

  • Social Media And Big Tech Are Driving Concerns

Social media companies are the least trusted type of organisation when it comes to looking after personal data, and sharing data on social media is perceived to be the least secure activity. The most common user-selected priorities for regulation are ensuring that big technology companies do not have too much power over personal data.

  • Muted Interest In Personal Information Management Systems

The majority of users like the idea of controlling who accesses their data and claim they would check their data frequently. However, there is great inertia – over half state that organisations should look after their data without them needing to be involved in this way, and most also claim they would only use it if it was free. This kind of service will need to expound on a wider range of user benefits in order to appeal to more users.

Nothing is clearer than the words and actions of mobile users. Trust in data sharing is weak. Yet, there are surprising elements in that many users are finding that their perception of an immediate threat is much reduced. There is a form of decay in the system that is not easy to view from a distance – data abstinence. The quantity and quality of information that is shared in the system is deteriorating. The study shows that 67% of users globally, avoid sharing their personal data, and only 12% of users say that they do not worry about control of their data.

The entire industry needs to address and show care for end users’ concerns – that is true for the full data supply chain. The Mobile Ecosystem Forum community is ready to go deeper and to host this debate. It is not a time to sound alarms, but we should not be complacent either. Let’s build the next paradigm for a data economy together.

Dario BettiCEO, MEF