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Do Belgians lose sleep over online privacy?

Almost 4 out of 10 Belgians seem less concerned about online privacy or about how their personal data is used on the Internet. More and more Belgians have no problem with their data being shared among companies, as long as they benefit from it themselves.

This is the result of a large-scale privacy survey carried out by the Global Data & Marketing Alliance in collaboration with Belgian Association of Marketing for Belgium and with the support of Trends Business Information and The Data Agency.

For the survey, more than 20,000 consumers were questioned in 16 countries, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, but also the U.S., China and India.

"The first time this survey was conducted in 2017, Belgium was not yet included," says Burt Riské of Trends Business Information. "In our country, just over a thousand people were surveyed this time, in different age groups and with different backgrounds. They were asked a total of almost 200 questions, including how they view data and data protection, online shopping, the devices they use to go online, and more."


In the conclusions of the survey, the researchers identify three types of "data profiles".

These are data pragmatists, data unconcerned and data fundamentalists.

"In Belgium, 42% are data pragmatists," explains Peter Trap of The Data Agency. "These are people who are quite concerned about online privacy, but who are also willing to compromise, case by case, if the service they receive improves in exchange for information. The data fundamentalists take a much stronger stand. They do not give information, not even in exchange for a better service or product. In Belgium this concerns 21% of the respondents. The data unconcerned is the other extreme: they do not really care about data and privacy. This concerns a quarter of the population.

Across all countries, the latter group is also growing the fastest, as it turns out, and this is probably no different in our country. So there are still some people who are worried about privacy and what happens to their data, but that group is getting smaller.

"A lot has been said and written about data and privacy, but very often this is based on gut feelings and assumptions," says Peter Trap. "This study provides hard figures. We see that there is a worldwide shift from data fundamentalists to data unconcerned. Privacy concerns are certainly not gone, but they are declining."


Concerns may be receding, but that doesn't mean companies can just go along with anything, warns Burt Riské.

"Acting transparently, keeping your word, building trust and especially not betraying that trust is still very important to consumers. Only if they feel comfortable with how companies deal with this, will they be willing to share their data. This also has to do with the fact that consumers are increasingly aware of the importance and value of their data. They realise that this has become an asset and are increasingly trying to cash in on it, for example through discounts or other benefits."

This is certainly the case with young people. Among Belgians between 18 and 24, 38% are prepared to share their data if they receive something from a company in return. This willingness drops to 23% among the 65+ population.

"In the Netherlands, the difference is much greater," says Riské. "Of the young people in the Netherlands, no less than 64% are prepared to trade their data for benefits. Among older people, this is only 19%".

While most survey results for Belgium are more or less in line with those of our neighbouring countries, there is a clear difference with Asian countries such as China and India.

"The percentage of people who are prepared to give data in exchange for benefits is around 90% there," says Peter Trap. "The online economy in those countries has developed in a much shorter time than in ours and has also skipped a few steps. For example, many services are only available online and there was often no time to gradually build up an awareness of digital privacy."


Finally, what should marketers and businesses take away from this study?

"This study can help objectify emotions around internet privacy and data," says Burt Riské. "Of course, awareness around data is important and there should be initiatives like the GDPR. But consumers are smart enough to realise themselves what happens to their data and even how they can capitalise on it. For marketers, it is especially important to know that when they ask for data, they must do so in full disclosure and trust. Trust comes on foot, but leaves on horseback. This is an old Dutch saying that intends to remind people that trust takes time to build, but is quickly lost.”

Article written by Trends Business Information


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