As the federal government launched the COVIDSafe app, a number of citizens still refused to download it, putting concerns over privacy above the possibility of reducing the pandemic’s numbers. It is more evidence that consumers put privacy at the core of their concerns when it comes to date

While downloads of the app are steadily growing and have reached 5.5 million as of the time of writing, the app also set off a fierce debate online.

Those concerns have been raided by privacy advocates who worry that the app represents overreach on the part of the government, as well as critics of the government generally, who simply do not believe it will honour its commitments to delete the data when the crisis has passed.

To ease concerns the government has written protections into legislation, however, the truth is there are guarantees it cannot make – such as promising the US government won’t simply hoover up all the data from AWS as it is legally entitled to do.

According to Mike Zeederberg, managing director at Zuni, “COVIDSafe has re-ignited consumer’s interest and concern around what type of personal data they give away, and who they give it to.”

This being the age of social media, it has also fuelled a wide range of conspiracy theories around digital tracking and how the government will use the app to “spy” on everyone, he says.

This highlights how little consumers really understand what data is and isn’t already tracked by apps, and what can and can’t be done by the government already, using the Data Retention Act of 2015.

Because of the heightened awareness of data collection and use from consumers, marketers need to be clearer than ever how they are using people’s data, and where they fall on the spectrum of “Clever vs Creepy” in the eyes of their customers, based on their use of data says Zeederberg.

Customers perceive a reasonably clear difference between where businesses and marketers are using their data for the benefit of the business. An example of that would be Facebook selling consumer data to advertisers as opposed to where their data is used for their own benefit such as recommendation on Amazon or Spotify.

But does this new normal mean marketers need to change their strategy in regards to privacy?

“Marketers have a real opportunity to work out how they can use the data they hold for mutual benefit with their customers, and by doing so, be seen as good custodians and utilisers of data and private information,” he says.

“The more businesses can be seen to be providing utility and useful information through their use of data, rather than just using it to sell stuff, the more likely consumers will be to trust businesses to keep their data private.”

About this author

Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which ADMA is a corporate member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply. 

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