Concerns that companies are abusing public trust in the way they gather and use location data mean a fundamental rethink is needed before people can embrace new services such as autonomous cars and drone deliveries, according to a major new study by HERE Technologies.
It says its survey suggests that just 20% of people feel they have full control over their personal location data, with 44% sharing location data with apps and service providers unintentionally, despite trying to restrict access.
Globally, some 76% of people are left feeling stressed or vulnerable about sharing their location data, according to the study. Findings in the UK specifically are perhaps linked to this – whilst most of the UK share location data always or very often (29%), a mere 14% actually know what the location data is used for. Insufficient controls for management of personal data, coupled with a lack of transparency on the part of data collectors, are the main reasons why respondents felt trust was being abused. The research gathered the views of more than 8,000 people across eight countries, and also included in-depth interviews with international privacy experts.
Global findings included:
- Around 65% of people have shared their location data with an app or service provider at least onceJust a quarter of respondents said they were aware of what happens with their location data once it is collected
- Despite expressing major concerns about sharing their location data, the clear majority do not actively engage with their location data settings on their devices
- Less than a fifth trust in laws and regulations to protect against misuse of their location data
- Less than a fifth trust that services collecting their location data will handle their data appropriately
The study suggests that increased transparency and control over how location data is collected and used could increase consumer trust and make them more willing to share. Around 70% globally said they would grant access to a data collector if they knew why their location data was needed, what it was used for, and that it was protected, stored safely or systematically deleted. A similar number said they would also allow access if they could more easily change their settings, withdraw access and delete their history.
Accordingly, of all respondents, most people would be open to utilising new technologies to help people manage their data, the study showed. Some 63% said they would use a ‘privacy service’, which would manage their privacy settings based on their preferences on any device that they use. Meanwhile, 51% worldwide said they would entrust their private data management needs to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot.
HERE says in the UK specifically, just 12% know which personal data is collected about them. However, despite this, UK consumers generally have a more positive attitude about sharing their location data compared to those in other markets – 29% of UK respondents share location data always or very often, more than the global average of 21%.
Data in exchange for value or improved experience was found to be a key driver of information sharing. In the UK, 28% of consumers strongly agree that they are happy to share data when something is in it for them. Those in the UK were also overwhelmingly willing to share data for financial benefits (78%) and 7% more likely than the rest of the world to share with banks (22%). Among the many benefits gained by sharing their location data, globally people ranked greater car safety the highest, with some 73% of people saying they would be likely to share their location data in such a scenario.
In more futuristic scenarios, 72% of worldwide consumers would be willing to share their location data for an autonomous car to find the most efficient routes, while 69% would share to enable a drone to find a missing person, pet or item.
Dr. Peter Kürpick, Chief Platform Officer at HERE Technologies, said, “People share location data with app providers because of the many benefits, whether it’s food delivery, hailing a ride, or getting the most out of social media. But, for many, it can be a trade with which they’re uneasy. While the lack of trust is problematic today, we believe that there could be greater challenges down the road if privacy practices continue to be dominated by a click-to-consent approach.
“Autonomous transportation and other new services will require increasingly time-sensitive and machine-to-machine communications, and for people to enjoy uninterrupted access to these kinds of services, a new approach to privacy is needed. We believe the answer is in equipping people with transparent user-friendly settings that allow them to grant and withdraw access rights as well as manage their privacy preferences, helping them stay in better control of what they’re sharing across their digital life. For our part, we’re exploring privacy-as-a-service concepts for potential development. However, it is also paramount that there is a collaborative approach across different industry segments to develop the right solutions. Verimi, in which HERE is an investor, is a good example of a cross-industry initiative which will help people manage their data and privacy.”