The UK government this month announced details of its Data Protection Bill (DPB), bringing its policy in line with the EU’s much-discussed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

There’s a growing sense that consumers are becoming more savvy about the use of their data. And with these new data protection laws coming into force in May next year, the7stars’ insight team set out to ask the public how they really feel about sharing their personal data, as part of our quarterly consumer tracking panel*.

The survey, The QT, revealed that most people are willing to share at least some of their personal data in return for access to free, discounted or enhanced products or services. Over half of participants said they were willing to share their gender (55%) or email address (51%) – relatively good news for companies looking for direct communication channels to their consumers. Date of birth was also high up on the list, with over a third of the panel (36%) happy to reveal this, meaning that data is available to build a basic demographic picture.

Consumers were least likely to give up photos, contacts and calendar details – only 1 in 20 said they would be willing to share any of this. This is perhaps contradictory to the rise of visual-based social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, and suggests a disconnect between users’ willingness to share photos online (even on open platforms) and their willingness to share this type of content directly with businesses.

This may be explained by variation in attitudes to data by age. The over 65s (less likely to be heavy Instagram users) are the most reluctant to share any personal data, with 1 in 4 saying they wouldn’t be willing to share any data in exchange for access to products or services. This contrasts with the 18 to 24 age group, where over 90% would share some form of personal data in order to access services. Those between 18 and 34 were the most protective about providing their location or address, and those aged between 35 and 44 were most coy about revealing their date of birth.

With the laws being introduced next May, companies will need to ask for explicit and informed consent before collecting and using personal data – a requirement which stretches even to online identifiers such as IP addresses and cookies. Our research suggests that marketers may be more limited in the data they can use once explicit consent is required or, rather, that brands will have to convince consumers to share their data by providing further access to rewards, offers or discounts in return – an approach trialled by start-up People.io.

The good news is that only 1 in 5 of consumers say they wouldn’t want to share any data at all, meaning 80% of the population understand that online products and services have a value and are willing to trade their information in exchange for access. The level of information they are willing to trade and the value of that exchange in the eye of the consumer will be the deal breaker (or maker) for brands.

*The QT is the7stars’ proprietary tracking study. The study is national representative of 18+, and around 1000 participants take part in each wave. This is followed up by online or face-to-face qualitative research.

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