Malmö University 20 years – celebrate with us

Utskrift från Malmö universitets webbplats www.mah.se

Younger people are less opposed to corporate data collection

2018-07-24

According to a new study from Malmö University, young people with a higher education are more likely to be positive towards the collection and sharing of their online data. 

Sara Leckner

Sara Leckner, senior lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Media Technology, has conducted research on user attitudes to corporate collection of data. Her study, which was conducted in Sweden, shows that one in four people are happy to have their data sold to third parties.

She conducted a survey in collaboration with the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg exploring attitudes towards online data sharing. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, asking who is positive towards commercial data collection may seem like a rhetorical question, yet more than 24 per cent of respondents saw the benefits in targeted ads and improved apps and services. 

Those who responded favourably towards this kind of data collection were mainly well-educated, young and had above-average digital literacy. Those who responded negatively were generally older and had fewer years of formal education. The ‘positive’ group were also better at securing their data online.

Students using laptop computers

"It may seem a bit paradoxical, but it is likely down to this group having more knowledge and therefore being more aware of how to protect themselves online. The study also suggests that this group uses the internet more frequently and shares more," says Leckner.

Our data is logged constantly, whether we’re posting content or visiting a webpage. Leckner believes that the negative press associated with the Cambridge Analytica scandal has, at best, increased awareness around how services are not free; we exchange them for access to our personal data.

“The type of data analysis that Cambridge Analytica has been criticised for is not new, however, the ethical and legal approach in this case was extremely questionable,” she says. 

Leckner does not believe the revelations will change our online behaviour, although many Swedes considered deleting their Facebook account in the weeks following the scandal. We forget easily, she says, and when all our friends are on social media it can be hard to leave. Leckner also believes that the EU's new data protection regulation, GDPR, will not lead to any radical change.

"It will mean more transparency but the major corporate players still have legal sway and tremendous power that they won’t give up. They can find loopholes or move their activities outside Europe.”

Those who want to feel more in control can make simple changes like turning off the GPS on their phones, blocking ads, and clearing their cache. However, Leckner points out that we also benefit from personality-based services, and that tighter regulations could mean less value for the user.

“We all contribute to the success of the digital business model, which is why it is a shared responsibility. Businesses need to make it easier for users to understand when our data is used, for what purpose, and how we give consent. A lack of confidence could counteract innovation,” Leckner adds.

Text: Magnus Jando

Last updated by Maya Acharya