Corporate Eye

Consumers Call for Transparency in Use of Private Information

private signNearly nine out of 10 consumers (87%) don’t believe that companies are adequately protecting their private information. That statistic comes from a new survey of consumers between the ages of 20 and 40 in the United States and the United Kingdom that was conducted earlier this year by Accenture.

A Lack of Transparency Concerns Consumers

Overall, 70% of the 2,000+ survey respondents don’t believe that businesses are being completely honest and transparent in disclosing how they use the personal information that they collect about their customers and visitors to their web properties. Furthermore, 39% believe that their personal information is being sold despite what businesses report to the contrary.

Survey respondents were asked how they want companies to be transparent with consumers in regards to how they use personal information. The majority want companies to send the information via email. The overall response breakdown follows:

  • Companies should send an with email details and updates on how personal information is used = 53%
  • Companies should always offer a way to opt-out of new data usage plans = 49%
  • When updates are made to data usage, companies should get approval from consumers before using their personal information again = 40%
  • Companies should publish all consumer data usage details on their websites = 29%
  • Companies should send text messages with details and updates on how personal information is used = 9%
  • Companies should call via phone with details and updates on how personal information is used = 7%

Leveraging Data Usage Transparency as an Opportunity

Based on the Accenture study findings, the majority of consumers are willing to accept that companies will track their online behavior and store their personal information in order to present them with more relevant offers. However, their perceptions of how that data is used represents an opportunity for brands to leverage transparency to demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility (as well as for marketing purposes).

Companies that raise the bar in terms of disclosing how they use personal information can improve their brand reputations in consumers’ minds. At this point, consumers need to be educated in layman’s terms. Presenting a lengthy page of disclosures and disclaimers isn’t the type of transparency that consumers want. Go ahead and publish the necessary legal language, but go a step further by making it very easy for consumers to quickly and easily learn how you collect information and what it is used for. It’s a critical step in differentiating your brand from competitors and building brand trust that leads to brand loyalty and brand advocacy.

Image: Neil Gould

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.