To gauge consumer understanding, Kantar TNS UK has launched the GDPR Awareness Index, a monthly survey of consumers to assess their knowledge of the General Data Protection Regulation. The inaugural survey of 1,236 GB adults shows that consumer understanding of GDPR is poor.

Companies collect a wealth of information on consumers to help tailor interactions with them, capturing everything from online purchase behaviour to social media habits. However, despite the potential value of having a more tailored experience, less than a third (30%) of UK consumers are in favour of sharing personal data, compared to more than half (51%) who are reluctant to share such data even if it would provide them with better goods and services. This new research also showed that the lack of willingness to share data is even more stark when the reward would be more relevant advertising (64% against vs. 23% for).

The survey found that only 35% of consumers have heard of GDPR. Understanding of what is covered by the new regulation is also poor. Most agree it will cover basic demographics like name, age, and gender, but less than half believe it will extend to passive data such as cookie tracking, location data, online purchase history, and social media habits. This is true even among those that claim to have heard of GDPR, suggesting that very few truly understand what it will mean for them.

While this holds true across age groups, people aged 55 and over were comparatively more informed with above average GDPR awareness (40%) and a better understanding of what it will cover and the additional control they will have over how companies use their data. In contrast, those aged 16-24 were least aware of GDPR (30%) and least likely to agree that it will cover passive data such as cookie tracking, online purchase behaviours, and location data – despite this group having the most significant digital footprint.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Phil Sutcliffe Head of Offer and Innovation at Kantar TNS UK said; “The potential impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from May onwards has to be concerning for businesses. Whilst GDPR is undoubtedly a significant operational headache, it also presents an opportunity to reset their data relationships with customers. However, if companies are to form a more trusting relationship with people over the use of their data they need to be transparent about how they intend to use the data, provide a fair value exchange and give reassurance over data security. These results show that there is a small window of opportunity for companies to do this but they need to act fast, otherwise there is a danger that consumers simply opt out as their awareness of GDPR and the rights it gives them grows.”

Notes 

Kantar TNS UK interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,236 adults in the Great Britain between 9-11 January 2018. Interviews were conducted online by Kantar TNS Omnibus.

Over the coming months, Kantar TNS will continue to monitor consumer awareness and understanding of the GDPR regulation through the GDPR Awareness Index as the May launch approaches.

The data tables are available here.