Lost in data: over three quarters of Brits don’t feel in control of their online data

Over three quarters (76%) of Brits don’t feel in control of their data online, also citing concerns over how it’s being collected, according to new research.

Over three quarters (76%) of Brits don’t feel in control of their data online, also citing concerns over how it’s being collected, according to new research.

The study, from The Trade Desk also found that almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) UK adults are concerned over the collection and use of their data on the internet and nearly seven in 10 (68 per cent) believe the information provided on data use is hard to understand. This is despite regulatory changes, which came into force almost three years ago, to improve consumer control and understanding around data.

This lack of understanding breeds an unwillingness to ‘opt-in’ to data sharing online, risking the future of online publishers dependent on the revenues of data-driven advertising. However, Brits have a strong appetite to learn, with more than 8 in 10 (80 per cent) stating they would like to better understand what data is being collected as they browse the internet. At the same time, more than half (53 per cent) are more comfortable with their data being used for advertising when they have more control over its use.

The research also finds that paywalls and data walls are frustrating consumers and pushing them to seek content elsewhere. While the majority of Brits (62 per cent) understand that advertising plays a critical role in keeping apps and websites free, 85 per cent of UK adults get annoyed when asked to pay for a subscription to unlock website content. In addition, 86 per cent feel the same way when asked to create an account, suggesting a hunger for simplicity and convenience. Almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) would prefer to access websites without having to create a unique account for each site – the less time spent entering details online, the better.

However, 72 per cent of Brits are more likely to create an account with a brand when they provide clear information about how their data will be used. A further 77 per cent will only create an account with a brand if they trust them to protect their personal information. Clearly, it’s vital for the industry to be open about how data is used and grant users with greater control, which will pay dividends to brands, publishers and advertisers when increased trust leads to greater data sharing.

Philippa Snare, SVP EMEA at The Trade Desk, commented on the findings: “This research reveals both a concerning lack of trust in online data collection and a strong appetite amongst Brits to better understand how it all works. As an industry, we have an opportunity to come together to give consumers what they clearly want – greater transparency, better control and more straightforward communication. Empowering people with more information builds trust and encourages greater data sharing, which is crucial for powering the value exchange of the free content we all enjoy every day.

Philippa continued: “The impending removal of third-party cookies is putting pressure on the industry to adopt a fairer identity solution, which is privacy safe, easy for consumers to understand and only requires one sign in. That’s what’s driving the development of Unified ID 2.0, an upgraded alternative to cookies that preserves the value exchange of relevant advertising while putting the consumer in control. Unified ID 2.0 is an open-source, industrywide solution that could become a new common currency for the internet that improves the experience for everyone – advertisers, publishers and consumers alike.”


In December 2020, The Trade Desk commissioned a representative survey of 2,203 consumers, aged 18+, in the UK, with YouGov to understand the consumer perspective on data privacy, security and dimensions of the value exchange of the internet.

Source: The Trade Desk