1The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has been conducting a global research to study which data customer regard as sensitive and which industries enjoy the utmost confidence in privacy protection.

The conclusion has been that data protection needs of customers are pretty similar worldwide: Feedback or complaints about brands, products or services are rated as least sensitive. Besides that, customers feel that their brand preferences are not particularly a secret and their names, age, gender, and interests are not really protection worthy.

On issues such as purchase intentions, purchase history and surfing history, however, the number of skeptics prevails. Considered as most sensitive are credit card information, financial data, data on children as well as information on health.

This corresponds with the fear of abuse in the individual sectors. Worst off are credit card firms and social networks. Public services, banks and search engines also rather enjoy little confidence. Interesting is further the fact that online retailers fare worse than brick-and-mortar stores and customer loyalty programs. Moreover according to BCG, the data protection needs are not as different as expected in the age groups.

“In order for global companies to have the greatest possible access to personal data, consumers need to trust that this information will be well stewarded” the consulting firm states in its whitepaper The Trust Advantage: How to Win with Big Data, and estimates that those that manage this issue well should be able to increase the amount of consumer data they can access by at least five to ten times in most countries. “And if they can generate meaningful insights from this information and execute an effective big-data strategy, the resulting torrent of newly available data could shift market shares and accelerate innovation. This performance boost is what we call the ‘trust advantage’, the company states. Without consumer trust, in fact most of the trillions of dollars of social and economic value promised from big data will not be realized.

According to BCG, trust can be systematically built and strengthened if organizations master the internal principles, codes of conduct, compliance mechanisms, and trust metrics involved in stewarding data and holding themselves accountable, and if they communicate transparently with consumers about their actions and performance as data stewards. However, this will require that policies about data stewardship rest within the C-suite, rather than being relegated to the legal or public-policy department under the guise of privacy or lobbying.

By Daniela La Marca