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Big Tech Push Trust Boundaries With Consumer Security And Privacy Tweaks

By some measure, consumers don’t seem overly concerned about protecting their personal data and privacy. They rarely read the terms of service before clicking “OK” and reuse the same password across multiple websites — no matter how often security experts warn them not to. To put it mildly, it would not be unfair to say that consumers’ digital hygiene is less than optimal.

But appearances can be deceiving. Danny Luczak, chief technology officer for wedding retailer David’s Bridal, told PYMNTS in a recent interview, noting that consumer values and desires run in different directions simultaneously in the connected economy. They want shopping experiences that are smooth, seamless, and digitally enhanced, he noted, with top-notch security always an expectation.

“We recognize that, right now more than ever, cybersecurity is a huge concern for folks,” he said. “There seems to be kind of a movement away from the card kind of hacking and breaching toward more of the ransomware types [of] breaches, but consumer behavior has not really changed in that regard. It is not like people are just getting comfortable [and saying], ‘OK, my credit card information is safe now.’”

In-depth: David’s Bridal On Marrying Seamless Security With Omnichannel Convenience To Retain Consumers’ Trust

In fact, new data demonstrates that consumer discomfort is actually mounting. According to a range of recent headlines, they are also getting pickier about how and when they share it, just as it seems they are getting less choice about how and when it is used.

Consumer’s Mounting Data Protection Concerns 

As PYMNTS data this week demonstrates — consumers are becoming concerned about their data and who is holding on to it. Forty-nine percent said they are either “very” or “extremely” concerned and as much as 89 percent said they are at least “somewhat” concerned about handing over PII (personally identifiable information).

Some 57 percent of platform users report being  “very” or “extremely” likely to leave their platforms for competitors over security concerns, and almost two thirds (65 percent) report that a single security red flag is all it would take for them to bail out of a sign-on process. Meanwhile, 40 percent of consumers report being more concerned about sharing their PII than they were a year ago, and most eye-catching, a majority of consumers (55 percent) said they wouldn’t share their personal data with merchants for fear it will be stolen.

Read More:  Report: Two-Thirds Of Digital Shoppers Will Bolt If They Feel Unsafe Online

To be sure, data makes the digital world go round. Without it, merchants would be severely challenged to create the smoothly personalized commerce experience promised by the era of connected commerce. But with 70 percent of consumers reporting, they are only “slightly” or “not at all” interested in handing off that data to a platform they aren’t already deeply familiar with — up and coming connected players have challenging times ahead.

Add to that mix a slew of Big Tech headlines this month indicating consumer control of their data may not quite be what they think.

Apple And Amazon’s Privacy Run-Ins 

Amazon’s latest trust snag, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, suggests that sellers are violating their agreements with the marketplace by tracking down consumers who have left bad reviews in an attempt to pester or persuade them to change or delete the negative feedback.

Although Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the Journal’s investigation reported that sellers would repeatedly email buyers who leave negative reviews — very much against Amazon’s policy — and even offer them incentives to modify their negative feedback, behavior that targeted users complain can last for weeks or months. The new negative review scrubbing allegations come in the wake of prior reports that showed some sellers were soliciting fake positive reviews in an attempt to unjustly increase their sales.

Drawing more controversy this past week was Apple’s announcement that it would start automatically scanning stored images on iPhones for child abuse.

“Apple’s method of detecting known CSAM (child sexual abuse material) is designed with user privacy in mind,” Apple’s announcement said. “Instead of scanning images in the cloud, the system performs on-device matching using a database of known CSAM image hashes provided by NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and other child safety organizations. Apple further transforms this database into an unreadable set of hashes that is securely stored on users’ devices.”

The changes will roll out “later this year in updates to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.”

The announcement has raised many complaints — from data privacy advocates who note how liable data scanning is to “creep” and that users have a right to expect privacy on their personal devices. Experts have also noted despite Apple’s past resistance to providing law enforcement officials a backdoor into encrypted phones — its current move to scan and report seems to be a capitulation to building the exact type of surveillance tool law enforcement has long requested.

Consumers, it seems, are a bit more sensitive about their personal information than some of their worst habits indicate.  When it comes to smaller less-known merchants, the data indicates they will walk away and withhold.  What happens when big-name players like Apple and Amazon end up on the wrong side of their privacy preferences?

It seems we are about to find out.

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