The digital revolution has dramatically enhanced peoples' ability to enjoy their Human Rights, as defined by the United Nations. For example, Article 19 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion." Surely no one can deny it is far easier to express ourselves in the digital age, and that's not the only one.
Article 20 protects our freedom to association, the right for people to join with like-minded folk without geographical boundaries. Article 24 protects our right to rest and leisure while Article 26, our right to education. Few would claim that the data and technology of the digital revolution hasn't transformed their ability to connect with people, enjoy digital content and expand our minds.
Not forgetting Article 23 which protects peoples' right to work. The still burgeoning digital economy fundamentally supports that. The UK Government alone says the digital economy adds over £400 million per day to the UK economy, and that it's a sector growing six times faster than the average. In the U.S., the commercial internet is responsible for over 7 million jobs.
There can be little doubt - the digital age has brought us huge benefits, but there are challenges.
We know the same digital ease of expressing opinions that we value has also made it possible for some to bring out the worst in people and society. Stories such as hate and harassment, through the misuse of data, at times overwhelm the good news stories of the benefits and connectedness a digital world brings. Of course, while more of us are familiar now with data and technology, for many it is still a complex and poorly understood area, which only serves to create an air of mystery and concern.
This is why the Global Data Privacy: What The Consumer Really Thinks research report, now in its fourth iteration (and the second update containing international trend data), is so incredibly important and illuminating. In an age where too many opinions are expressed without evidence, this report is the latest result of a long-term partnership between Acxiom and the GDMA, focused on data truth, the reality of what people really think about data. It is one thing to take a quick poll, it is entirely another to understand trends across 10 years and, more recently, across countries.
Understanding is fundamental, and that is why this research tells us things not normally anticipated. While some media reports would have us believe people are more worried than ever before, the reality is more people are getting familiar with data and technology and in return concern is falling. Not to say we can relax. Indeed, to the contrary, we need more engaged and pragmatic minds around data.
It seems clear the growing generations of people who are used to data are having an effect, but the AdTech industry must continue to find an answer to this axiomatic message: people still don't see themselves benefiting from data as much as companies do.
While we cannot pretend the digital economy does not provide growth and value to businesses (and let's not forget their employees), it provides far more value to people than they realize. So, while people have less concern than before when it comes to data matters, it matters greatly that we collectively work to understand how people think, so that we may help them have a balanced view of this amazing digital age and how it works for people. This research helps make that possible.
Thank-you again to our wonderful partners at the GDMA and to our independent research partner, Foresight Factory, for helping make this important work possible. Download the report.