90% of Brits don’t know how companies use their data

90% of Brits don’t know how companies use their data Duncan is an award-winning researcher, with 20 years experience of analysing the technology industry, specialising in cloud computing, edge computing, blockchain, cybersecurity and marketing technology.


As Black Friday approaches on November 24, millions of Brits are gearing up for the annual shopping sales event of the year, eager to snag the best deals.

However, amid the frenzy of discounts and promotions, Forbes Advisor, the price comparison and financial guidance platform, is reminding consumers to be vigilant about how companies handle their personal data.

A recent study from technology experts reveals that almost nine in ten (88%) Brits are concerned about how companies manage their personal information. Yet nine in ten (90%) admit to not having a full understanding of what companies actually do with their data. This gap in knowledge poses potential risks for consumers, as they remain unaware of the full scope of activities involving their personal information. 

In the UK, almost nine in ten (87%) consumers shop online. However, a concerning nine in ten (89%) internet users do not bother reading the privacy policies of all online services or apps they engage with. 

Just over a third (35%) admit to ‘sometimes’ reading privacy policies and just less than a third (32%) say they have only read them on rare occasions. More than one in six Brits (17%) confess they have never read the privacy policies of the online services or apps they use.

How well do we understand how our data is harvested and used?

The absence of awareness of terms and conditions has left many individuals in the dark about the extent to which companies obtain their data. Almost a third (31%) are unaware that websites can collect information about their online behaviour, even if they don’t register with those websites. 

Companies compile personal data from multiple sources, including browsing and purchase history, as well as demographic information such as details of age, gender, location, income level, education, marital status, and more. This enables companies to create profiles to predict how much people are willing to pay for a product or service, even if they haven’t directly engaged with them.

Furthermore, one in five Brits (20%) do not realise that social media platforms use their personal data to target ads at them. This is a critical point for consumers venturing into the world of online shopping this Black Friday, as seemingly attractive deals might not be the best ones.

Interestingly, while concern about websites using data for targeted ads is prevalent, more than a quarter (29%) of Brits find this practice helpful. Specifically, almost half (48%) of those aged 18-34 and nearly a third (32%) of those aged 35-54 consider these targeted ads useful. These age groups are known to be highly active on social media, giving us insight into the perceived benefits of such advertisements.

Additionally, four out of five (82%) Brits worry about the possibility of social media platforms using smartphone data collected through microphones for ad targeting. However, it’s vital to note that these platforms can only do so if users have granted them permission to access their smartphone’s microphone.

Mark Hooson, technology specialist at Forbes Advisor, said: “Black Friday and the holiday shopping season are fast approaching, and while it’s a time of excitement for UK consumers, it’s essential to be aware that some online retailers may use strategies based on personal data and browsing activity to tailor the shopping experience. Sometimes, seemingly attractive deals may not always represent genuine value. In light of this, it’s vital that consumers remain vigilant and continue shopping around.”

Forbes Advisor has delved into five potential tactics that companies might employ and provided tips on how to sidestep any unintended consequences of data sharing while navigating Black Friday deals:

  1. Dynamic Pricing:

Dynamic pricing adjusts prices based on factors like your location, browsing history, and purchase patterns. Use private or incognito browsing modes to prevent websites from tracking your history. Additionally, clear your browser cookies regularly.

  1. Personalised Discounts:

Some companies may offer personalised discounts to specific customers based on their purchasing behaviour. Compare prices across different devices, browsers, and even with friends or family. This helps ensure you’re not getting a personalised, potentially higher, price.

  1. Limited-Time Offers:

Companies can create a sense of urgency by displaying limited-time offers that may not be as time-sensitive as they appear. Take a moment before making a purchase. If the deal seems too rushed, compare prices on other websites and check the offer’s legitimacy.

  1. Location-Based Pricing:

Prices may vary based on your geographic location, with some areas being charged more. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your location and access prices from different regions. Be aware of location permissions on apps and websites.

  1. Abandoned Cart Manipulation:

Some companies may increase prices if they notice items sitting in your online shopping cart, assuming you’re more likely to make the purchase. Log in to your account before adding items to your cart. Additionally, try logging out and clearing your cart before revisiting the site.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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