Estimated reading time 3 min

A lack of trust in data giants may wreck the hopes for a better digital future

An international survey reveals that people’s lack of trust presents an obstacle to the growth of digital business. The progress enabled by artificial intelligence is also at risk if access to data is compromised.


Jukka Vahti

Project Director, Digital power and democracy


Artificial intelligence and data-driven services have been laden with great expectations by enterprises as well as the public sector, but these expectations may fall flat if data does not move.

One significant obstacle to the movement of data is the lack of trust people feel towards the providers of digital services. In a four-country survey, as many as 42 per cent of respondents said a lack of trust in service providers prevents them from using digital services.

“The data-driven economy has thus far been built on the biggest players’ terms,” says Director Antti Kivelä from Sitra. “They collect massive amounts of data and largely decide how to use it. Most of this happens without the user’s knowledge. The results of the survey indicate that this is not a sustainable model. Going forward, the service system needs to have a clear set of consistent and fair rules on how data is processed.”

Commissioned by Sitra, Kantar TNS Oy conducted the survey in November and December 2018 in Finland, the Netherlands, France and Germany. More than 8,000 respondents took part.

Trust is built by having the power to influence how your data is used

The survey also looked at whether data leaks and abuses have eroded people’s trust in services that collect and use data. Approximately one in three respondents reported having stopped using certain services or changed their privacy settings because of misuse. However, one in three also said that the public debate and bad press have not had any effect on the way they use services.

The survey indicates that trust is built through actions and by giving people the power to influence how their data is used. Among the respondents, 56 per cent said their trust in a service provider increases the most if they have the option of approving or declining the sale of their data to third parties. Financial compensation or additional services did not increase trust.

Having the power to make decisions is more important to people than pre-made decisions. People do not want artificial intelligence or some other outside party to make decisions regarding the use of their data. They want to have the power to give their consent to service providers themselves. As many as 74 per cent of the survey’s Finnish respondents want to be able to give their consent separately to each service provider. The corresponding figures were 60 per cent in Germany, 47 per cent in the Netherlands and 55 per cent in France.

According to Jaana Sinipuro, Project Director at Sitra: “The survey shows that people need ways to identify services that are reliable and use data fairly, much like products with fair trade labels. The survey also indicated that people need more information and tools for managing their data. Businesses also need new tools to satisfy GDPR obligations.”

The survey was conducted as part of Sitra’s IHAN® project, which aims to build the foundation for a fair data economy and create international rules and solutions for the fair exchange and use of data.

Contact us

What's this about?