A recent survey of German consumers, often characterised as the most privacy conscious Europeans, suggests that a third of them would be prepared to pay to protect their personal data online.
As the report states, this translates to an untapped market worth around 900 million Euros – which is not to a number that can easily be ignored, even if it would be difficult to turn into a real business opportunity.
However, perhaps more damning of the state of trust in the online economy is that fact that of those two thirds who wouldn’t be prepared to pay, the main reason they gave was that they didn’t have any confidence that paying would actually protect their privacy.
Most people in the survey were aware that personal data has become the currency of the web, although an overwhelming majority didn’t support this core business model. It seems they feel that no-one is really being honest with them.
All of which gives support to the view from a recent US survey from Pew Research that consumers generally feel powerless to control their privacy online. It may also explain why 97% of the German respondents felt that regulators are not doing enough to stamp out and penalise misuse of personal data.
The Data Protection Regulation has proposed some eye-wateringly high penalties for breaches in the future. However the real test of the new rules will be how many companies will feel the force of any regulatory action.
The German survey suggests that regulators are going to have to go a long way to demonstrate to consumers that they are fulfilling their role of keeping companies in line. This is much more likely to happen if there is evidence that the risk of enforcement itself is quite high.
If regulators focus on getting big fines out of a small number of very large multinationals, whilst larger numbers of smaller companies breaching the rules are left alone, then the DPR will not do its job of building much needed trust in the overall digital economy.