Trust in digital services fades in Finland

Recurrent leaks and misuse of personal data have spurred people in Finland to limit their use of digital services, says the think-tank Sitra.

Finns are warier of social media platforms' security. Image: AOP

News of widespread data leaks have prompted residents of Finland to adjust their privacy settings for digital services, cut back on usage of such platforms – or even to stop using them altogether.

The findings are among the results of a multi-national survey carried out for the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra late last year. The poll looked into people's attitudes toward digital services and their personal information.

Most respondents interviewed in Finland said that data leaks have had an impact on their use of such services. These include the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which millions of Facebook users' data ended up being exploited by election campaigns, including those that led to Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency. Even after the Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook has admitted to a series of data hacks affecting tens of millions of users.

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News of misuse of Facebook data make some users think twice about using the service. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Here in Finland, the state traffic safety Trafi agency has recently been embroiled in a controversy over data privacy.

Young and white-collar respondents sceptical

Forty-three percent of those polled in Finland said that distrust of service providers deters them from using digital services. The most sceptical respondents were those aged 25-34 as well as employees in white-collar and management positions.

Nearly three out of four Finnish respondents said they want to be able to give consent separately to each service provider to use their data. This was considerably higher than in three other European countries included in the study.

Certification of trustworthiness needed?

"The survey shows that people need ways to identify services that are reliable and use data fairly, much like products with fair trade labels," said Sitra project director Jaana Sinipuro.

"The survey also indicated that people need more information and tools for managing their data. Businesses also need new tools to satisfy GDPR obligations," she added.

Forty-five percent of those questioned in Finland said they would not be prepared to hand over their personal data to service providers on any conditions. However all but 13 percent of respondents said they didn’t mind providing information related to their consumption and purchases.

In November and December, pollster Kantar TNS surveyed some 2,000 adults in Finland along with 6,000 others in the Netherlands, France and Germany. It says the results were broadly similar in all these EU states, and pegs the margin of error at 2.2 percent.