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New tech developments are not achieving their goal of increasing trust in mobile, warns MEF

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The Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 8th annual Global Trust Report published this week finds that newer tech developments in mobile, like Artificial Intelligence, are creating greater uncertainty and increasing mistrust among users.

Rather than achieving the goal of increasing trust among mobile users, these new technologies are, at best, making no difference (between 40-50% of respondents, dependent on the technology) or actively reducing trust (15-20%). Only a small minority expressed positivity towards any of the new technologies.

MEF’s 8th annual Global Trust Report explores the smartphone and digital services usage of 6,500 smartphone users across 10 countries and considers their attitudes and trust levels in relation to personal data, privacy, identity, and how their data is handled by organisations (e.g. the service providers, mobile apps, etc).

This year, for the fourth year, the Global Trust Report has been supported by Assurant, a leading Fortune 500 global business services company that supports, protects and connects major consumer purchases.

Key findings

  • Newer tech developments create uncertainty and potential mistrust – Only a minority express positivity towards developments such as Artificial Intelligence, with some unclear what they are about. This hesitancy is likely to be exacerbated by concerns over personal data control and security.
  • Despite some incremental improvement, trust perceptions remain weak – A higher proportion than in the past agree that apps/services respect their privacy, and that they are in control of how their data is used. However, there remains much room for improvement. In particular, social media companies are looked to for reassurance on data transparency and security.
  • Users continue to lack confidence that any actions they take make them safer – Experiences of data harm remain prevalent, with most users feeling they lack adequate protection. Despite increasing numbers taking steps to protect their data, it remains difficult to assess the value of their actions.
  • Regulation may be supporting improved perceptions of control and security of personal data – Significant improvements are observed in perceptions of personal data control and security, particularly in markets where regulation has come into force – South Africa, Brazil and China.
  • The pandemic has reinforced the role of the mobile phone as a one-stop shop entertainment and life management tool – Most users feel their mobile usage has increased. We see penetration growth in functional activities such as food ordering and payments, increased frequency in leisure pursuits such as social media, music and gaming, and evolving video consumption habits.

Key lessons

The Mobile Ecosystem Forums 8th annual Global Trust Report also offers some key lessons for the mobile ecosystem industry

  • This is a prime moment for education – With many users recognising their increased mobile usage due to the pandemic, and a general sense of improvement in the privacy and security of their personal data, this may be a prime moment to respond with further educational messaging and empowerment.
  • Regulation matters – In a world where many users take action but still feel exposed, regulation plays a critical role in championing user rights – and when understood by users it may boost safety perceptions, as observed in this year’s study.
  • Build trust in new tech developments like AI and VR – Lack of understanding surrounding some newer developments has the potential to seed mistrust. Information about what these developments are, how they work, and any shift in the data exchange dynamic they may involve, will be a critical part of their establishment and user acceptance.
  • Target solutions for Social Media – Social media is ever more pervasive, yet suffers low data security and transparency ratings. There is an opportunity for governments, regulators, tool providers and social media companies themselves to acknowledge this perception gap and set out ways for users to remain protected.

“It’s great to see that more consumers are taking action to protect their digital privacy,” says Craig Thole, SVP, Product Development and Operations at Assurant. “However, most people still have done little to fully safeguard themselves partly because they aren’t sure what to do or where to go for help. And those who have acted continue to lack confidence that they are any safer. That’s why the MEF study continues to be an insightful resource – by better understanding consumers’ attitudes, collectively we can take meaningful steps to help people become more knowledgeable, empowered and confident that they can thrive in a connected world.”

“As an annual survey, The Global Trust Report clearly shows the shifting attitudes and behaviours of smartphone users. It shows us where, as an industry, we need to change and where the opportunities for better trust and transparency lie.” adds Dario Betti, CEO of MEF. “Disappointingly, it is also clear that dissatisfaction in mobile technology – both hardware and software – is growing. We haven’t reached a tipping point yet, but if the trend continues we will and that is something, as an industry, we must all work to avoid by increasing consumer trust through education, regulation, and robust action.”

“Personal data and identity are the core of the world’s $11.7 billion data economy,” concludes Michael Becker, CEO of Identity Praxis and co-author of the MEF Global Trust Study. “The message from the people is clear—industry leaders need to do a better job. People do not trust businesses to collect and use personal data responsibly. Business leaders must build products, services, and experiences that respect the individual’s sovereignty and fosters trust through secure and safe mutual value exchange that puts people in control of their data and identity.”

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