MEF study finds Canada among lowest markets for user trust

A recent report launched by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) at a conference in Toronto revealed the level of trust of Canadian mobile users when it comes to personal data sharing  is a full five percentage points below the global average.

The release of the Canadian-centric research findings is a follow-up to the organization’s ninth annual Global Trust Study, which was carried out in January and February of this year and surveyed 8,450 smartphone users, 650 in each of 13 markets.

This report focuses on Canada, comparing its key findings to the global benchmark in areas such as user attitudes to data sharing, security perceptions and artificial intelligence (AI).

Findings revealed that:

  • Canada ranks amongst the lowest for trust: It has one of the lowest Trust Indices globally. Key contributing factors are poor perceptions around privacy and control, and higher than average reported experiences of data harm.
  • Canadians are engaged in mobile life, but also more sensitive to data sharing risks: Despite relatively high usage of mobile services and an appreciation of their ease and convenience, most Canadians remain concerned about the amount of data collected about them and avoid sharing their information when possible.
  • Social media companies may be exerting an uncomfortable influence: Canadians are more likely than average to use social media for entertainment, as well as Facebook Messenger as a core mode of communication, however this does not translate into stronger trust. In fact, they have higher than average security concerns regarding social media sharing.
  • Canadians are skeptical about tech advances: Canadians are more likely than average to believe that tech advances are making their data less secure and display less positivity in the face of developments such as facial recognition and artificial intelligence.
  • Sensitivity to risk leads Canadians to take more protective actions: Canadians are more likely than other users to take steps to safeguard their personal data, and respond more favourably to the concept of personal information management systems. However, expense and lack of knowledge about which tools/services can really support them are barriers to taking further action.

Nicholas Rossman, director of product management at MEF and a Canadian who has lived in the U.K. for 13 years, states in the report that “there are some interesting takeaways for our industry.

“Returning trust to messaging is a global challenge that all our members are aware of. This is equally true of Canadians. who score lower than the global average on the trust index, at 49 per cent versus 54 per cent. This is likely due to a perceived lack of control over personal data.

“I continue to use SMS text messages to communicate with my family and friends back in Montreal, so it’s no surprise to me that our study found that 64 per cent of Canadians use SMS versus 38 per cent globally. Canada is a vast country, and SMS has proven itself to be a reliable technology. By contrast, only 38 per cent of Canadians use WhatsApp, compared to 58 per cent globally. That’s great news for MEF members but we should not be complacent.”

Discussing the results last week at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto, Dario Betti, the chief executive officer (CEO) of MEF, said of the results, “you can see that the Canadian smartphone users are probably the most advanced users you can find globally. There’s much more likelihood for them to be using social media, to listen to music, watch video or play a game.”

As for the lack of trust in Canada compared to other nations, he said when you look at what Canadians are most worried about, it is spam first of all, and specifically “they think they lack control.”

Keynote speaker Katherine Hay, the president and CEO of Kids Help Phone, an organization that describes itself as  “Canada’s only 24/7 e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people” in multiple languages,” defined the study findings on trust as “really disconcerting, especially when it comes to virtual care.”

Fortunately, there are no trust problems among the millions of youth who have used the service since it first launched 34 years ago.

“Kids Help Phone is the number one trusted charity in Canada,” said Hay. “We moved up from number three this time last year. And for us, everything anchors around trust because our customer base is young people.

“(Youth) as young as five, all the way through to about 28. That is a typical day for Kids Help Phone. Young people reach out to us for all kinds of reasons. We like to say no problem, or feeling is too small. And no issue is too big when they are reaching out – depression, anxiety, suicide and suicide ideation. In fact, about 23 per cent of all the work we do is in suicide, and suicide ideation, self harm, relationships, school issues, family issues.”

Describing it as a “34-year-old startup”, she said the founders were “pioneers in virtual care in Canada and we were the first health organization in the country to use a high-tech device (a telephone) to reach young people wherever they were.

“Here we are today, 34 years later and we continue to disrupt because kids are changing faster than ever, technology even faster – you all know that,” said Hay. “Steady state is not an option for Kids Help Phone because the stakes are way too high. We use digital assets – virtual care platforms technology, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), to triage.

“We have the most significant data set in the country on youth and mental health. The only one, actually, that is in real time and natural language.”

The data, added Hay, “drives all of our decisions. It drives our innovation, and in fact, fuels the landscape change in the sector.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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