Ketchum study: Tech can't ignore young people's concerns

The research found widespread worry and fear among digital natives, who could demand change from Big Tech.

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

SAN FRANCISCO: Technology companies can’t take young people for granted, according to a study from Ketchum released on Tuesday.

It isn’t just older generations that are leery of technology. Digital natives, or "techruptors," want change as privacy concerns mount and tech leeches into every facet of their lives, according to the agency’s Social Permission and Technology Study. In fact, digital natives, who make up 38% of the general population, are the most cynical because they are the most tech-savvy.

"There’s this tendency to take those early adopters and technophiles for granted," said Sullivan, director of technology at Ketchum. "There can be an assumption [that] the focus and attention needs to be spent more on slower adopters. When we counsel clients with this data, it flips that on its head."

Melissa Kinch, MD of technology, added that more studies on this issue should be conducted by vertical market and they should look into "stress tests" to find consumers’ tipping points.

The report did find contradictions in younger consumers’ attitudes about technology. Sixty-two percent of respondents said tech is invaluable in their daily lives. However, despite its value, 49% said they wish they were born in an earlier era with less technology.

When it comes to techruptors, 67% are concerned about tech’s rapid development, and 92% worry about how that development could affect their privacy.

Despite 78% saying they are uncomfortable with companies selling their data, 54% said they agree to terms and conditions without reading them most, if not all, of the time.

Although most users give companies "legal permission" to access their data, this dichotomy could suggest technology companies may no longer have users’ "social permission."

"A lot of this technology is part of a contract, [where you get] free access or low cost," Kinch said. "But the cost is people sharing your data. That is the paradigm for many of these technologies. They had permission so far, but as they grow more concerned and educated, will that contract change?"

She added that she encourages companies not to hide behind legalese and to have an open dialogue with customers.

More than a third (37%) said they don’t trust any organization with their data, despite the fact that more than three-quarters (78%) said technology has made their lives better for the past five years. While nearly half (48%) said they shop heavily online, only 8% trust retailers with their data. More than eight in 10 (82%) said technology will "make certain industries obsolete," and 74% said new jobs will take their place.

More than half of respondents (55%) said technology has made time with their children better, but 73% said they worry about sharing family details via mobile apps. Eighty-five percent said they are concerned about their children’s safety and 76% said they are concerned new developments could affect their kids’ privacy and identity.

Long-distance relationships are easier to maintain, according to 81% of respondents, but in person, 58% said they find it difficult to get their friends and family to put down their phones.

Eighty-five percent said there should be more data-privacy regulation. However, only relatively small numbers of respondents trust state (18%) or federal (20%) to protect their data. Meanwhile, 91% of techruptors want more data-privacy legislation, and 92% want the equivalent of the E.U.’s GDPR standard rolled out in the U.S. Techruptors are most concerned with protecting their personal data (56%), financial data (44%), and health data (30%).

More than 1,000 U.S. adults were contacted for the study, which was fielded from June 12-15.

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