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The Drive for Big Data Alienates Australian Consumers

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Australian companies have been accused of trying to squeeze too much customer information from consumers – to the point that they are gathering false results.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has warned audiences at Privacy Awareness Week of companies that ask for too much personal information at the checkout of their webstores. It is occurring to the extent that consumers have begun to enter false responses in forms, because they do not trust companies to handle their personal information, while also being suspicious of their motives.

This would pose problems for businesses that rely on accurate, ‘usable’ information, Pilgrim said.

“People are now becoming reluctant to give organisations information and are finding ways to give incorrect information,” Pilgrim told the audience. “If we just look at social media for example, I question how much of the information on there is actually reliable when you look at things such as dates of birth and the like.”

A survey from the University of Queensland found that 90 percent of Australians would prefer to be able to control the use of their personal details online, indicating the widespread dissatisfaction that consumers feel about ‘data harvesting’.

The survey’s author, Mark Andrejevic said that majority of consumers believe that companies ought to be legally required to notify them when their personal information was being collected, and that they should have the option to ‘opt out’ and have any associated data deleted on request.

Recent privacy concerns with the large American web giants like Google and Facebook may be the source of many of these concerns, according to Andrejevic.

The push for this data, and lots of it, is driven by the marketing needs of businesses, but is compounded by digital technologies that make it so easy to collate. Many consumers are acutely aware of just how much personal information can be built up online, detailing their browsing, shopping and social habits.

For conspiracy theorists, paranoia about the use of this data is understandable, while questions surrounding the security of this information, and what might be done with it should the wrong organisation get its virtual hands on it, are becoming more and more widespread in the general population.

Given the recent spate of security breaches across various companies in the last few years, it comes as no surprise that people are waking up to the risks associated with an online lifestyle. Hackers are well-known for data mining information of all kinds, including credit card details.

Is it time for Australian businesses to reconsider their position on ‘big data’? A huge consideration for online retailers will be finding ways to garner and promote a trust relationship with their customers. Asking for anything more than basic details in order for shoppers to purchase an item may start to impinge on this relationship.

Have you found any innovative ways to harvest customer information without compromising your store’s trustworthiness?

2 Comments

  • I have to say I agree with the privacy commissioner here. At VetShopAustralia.com.au while we would love as much info as possible on customers (how many pets, age, breed etc) so we could market more accurately, we try to constantly remind ourselves that customers prefer to do as little and share as little as is necessary for that transaction. Data collection can then be done later date for example with surveys etc. I know as a consumer I personally hate giving info if I believe its not required.

    Reply
    • Benoit Droulez
    • 28th May

    Interesting article, pity the facts (“people entering false data”) are not backed up by research data which would help quantify how large the problem is and if it is really a matter of concern.

    Reply

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