Consumers happy to share if there’s something in it for them

Recent survey results reveal consumers are open to sharing data regarding their locations for personal and societal benefits, but privacy concerns linger

Consumers are happy for companies to use location data, but only if it leads to benefits for them personally or for society at large, according to new research.

Enterprise location intelligence provider Gravy Analytics found a total of 73 per cent of survey respondents in their most recent research indicated users share their location information to improve app functionality, including navigating to a destination, showing weather or news, or finding nearby events. A total of 39 per cent of respondents reported they share their location information to download and use apps for free and 23 per cent to receive relevant ads and promotions.

When considering how location data is used to improve society, 73 per cent of respondents would want their aggregated and anonymised location data to be used to improve emergency response management during natural disasters, say the researchers. Additionally, 45 per cent would want their location data to be used to improve the quality of key public services like public transportation, and 38 per cent would want this data used to add new amenities to communities that residents want.

When asked how they feel about companies using their location information to target or personalise information for them in an app or on a website, 31 per cent of participants responded that they "love" or "like" it, say researchers. When asked why, these respondents indicated that their top reasons were key benefits, such as receiving offers and promotions for the products or experiences that interest them (71 per cent), seeing ads for things they want to buy or activities they want to participate in (56 per cent), and getting a more personalised customer experience relevant to their interests and lifestyle (52 per cent).

While consumers recognise the personal and societal benefits of sharing location data, many consumers are concerned about data privacy and protection, as data breaches (68 per cent) and their data being traceable to them as individuals (62 per cent) were the top concerns among consumers.

Despite these reservations, findings suggest that consumers are more open to location data collection once they know that the data is aggregated and anonymised. More than half (54 per cent) of consumers are at least somewhat comfortable with aggregated and anonymised location data collection and are confident that it cannot be traced back to them as an individual. This figure rises to 58 per cent of respondents with a postgraduate degree and 60 per cent among men.

Additional survey findings also revealed:

  • Over a third of participants who are postgraduate degree holders (38 per cent) responded that they "love" or "like" when companies use location data to target or personalise ads to them.
  • Just 26 per cent of consumers ages 18-34 dislike companies using location data to target ads to them. When asked why they dislike it, the top reason was that they don't want their data being used for commercial gain (58 per cent).
  • 40 per cent of consumers expressed a concern that their location data might lead people to infer things about them based on the places they visit. This was the top answer among men (44 per cent), while only 37 per cent of women said the same.
  • Men were the most comfortable (57 per cent) with companies using location data for various purposes once they knew that these companies remove data obtained from sensitive places of interest, such as healthcare centres, places of worship, or homeless shelters.

"While consumers are generally open to the benefits that location data can deliver to improve their lives and society at large, concerns remain, and more work needs to be done to educate the public on how this information is used and how data, including data from sensitive locations, is safeguarded," says Jeff White, Founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics. "It is up to the industry to demonstrate the extensive consumer privacy measures put in place and emphasise the benefits of using this data for greater social good."

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