Have consumer privacy concerns trumped innovation?

The Internet of Things (IoT) grows larger by the day, with the number of connected devices feeding into it climbing exponentially. Currently sat at around 14 billion, the number of active connections is expected to almost double to 27 billion by 2025.

While remarkable, we must also acknowledge that increasing connectedness has fueled consumer concerns over the way their data is collected and used.

The Data & Marketing Association’s Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks 2022 report found that the vast majority (69 percent) of UK adults have high levels of concern around their online privacy — though around half (46 percent) are willing to provide sensitive information to businesses if they can identify a clear benefit in return. This indicates that consumers are already facing difficult trade-offs between discomfort with sharing information and desire to access value-adding services.

The ethics of companies choosing to sell or share user data with third parties dominate much of the conversation surrounding this issue. But, perhaps, not enough focus is placed on the issues surrounding the effective communication of value-adding tech innovation while navigating privacy concerns and alienating language.

Developing products with peace of mind

First things first, to build trust with users, developers must present a clean track-record where cybersecurity is concerned. News of data breaches, for instance, could spell disaster for a tech businesses.

Furthermore, to ally privacy concerns, tech firms must effectively communicate guarantees that third parties will only use their personal information responsibly and when necessary. Neither consumers nor businesses will engage with digital services if they feel their data is not treated with due care and attention.

In my own experience running a digital design and development agency, this is always at the forefront of our operations. For instance, we collaborated with a business that wanted to introduce both a web and app platform for the property rental industry. While several of the features were unique in their design and brought further innovation to the product alongside core functionality, it also required the users to connect their bank account to the app. This is an example of a scenario where user privacy concerns could put the brakes on innovation.

Even when the development is advantageous, customers may be more inclined to err on the side of caution — it is many people’s nature to focus more on the potential drawbacks than the benefits, particularly when sensitive personal data is involved, or it is a product or service that they are relatively unfamiliar with.

Returning to our work with the rental proptech firm: in order to reassure the user, our goal was to educate them as to how the product functions, how their data will be utilized, and what security precautions are in place to ensure user protection.

Certainly, the tech industry can be guilty at times of failing to effectively communicate the value of new products without the heavy use of alienating jargon. Avoiding the fine print and clearly communicating can not only alleviate anxieties but also attract new consumers. Transparency is key.

Keeping it simple

Sometimes, less is more. We stress this all the time to businesses that are looking to embark on new digital projects — new and innovative features are fantastic, so long as they do not alienate users or neglect the core functionality.

A recent survey of 2,000 UK adults, commissioned by Studio Graphene, showed there was a clear preference for simplicity. More than half (60 percent) said there is simply too much new technology, with little thought applied to whether it is really necessary.

Meanwhile, 58 percent said businesses were too eager to move to new systems and platforms without proper thought for how users would adapt.

Take a step out of the tech bubble and this all seems relatively simple. Users want seamless experiences. They want products and services that make their lives easier, or allow them to complete tasks faster.

As newer trends like artificial intelligence and IoT technology enter the public domain far more, many people will again be cautious over what this might mean for their personal data. So, developers should be proactive in communicating their own values through the product and use design to give users trust. Focus on a safe, secure, seamless experience is of utmost importance.

In the end, it comes down to properly utilizing design and fusing genuine technology innovation with consumer concerns. Developers should prioritize creating logical information pathways at the point of onboarding that allow users to engage with their innovations with true peace of mind.

Image credit: realinemedia/depositphotos.com

Ritam Gandhi is the Founder and Director of Studio Graphene — a London-based company that specializes in the development of blank canvas tech products including apps, websites, AR, IoT and more. The company has completed over 250 projects since first being started in 2014, working with both new entrepreneurs and product development teams within larger companies.