How the Regulations can be a Means of Building Trust

This week, the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect, to the frustration of many international tech giants. This regulation represents a dramatic move toward consumer protection in a world increasingly driven by big data. In today’s global economy, data is more valuable than gold, and more non-tech companies than you might think rely on that information to operate.

Concurrently, today’s political climate provides companies an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to their stakeholders by advocating for issues about which people are passionate. APCO Insight’s own research on corporate behavior and advocacy (Corporate Advocacy in Five Acts), which interviewed 1,000 U.S. hyper-aware and influential consumers that pay close attention to corporate behavior, found:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) agree that companies should support social issues that are consistent with their business focus and expertise. In the context of GDPR, few companies can truly say they never deal in the collection or use of personal data.
  • More than 8 in 10 (82%) believe that a company should take a stand on an issue because it is the right thing to do, and not because of market pressures or government regulation.
  • Which leads to the next point – 85% of these influential consumers agree that companies now serve functions in society that were previously reserved for governments. While the EU has taken steps to protect residents’ privacy with GDPR, other governing bodies worldwide have yet to adopt so robust a standard. Companies can, and should, step in to enact such standards on their own.

As an opinion research and strategy group operating globally—including throughout the EU—APCO Insight is one of those companies most affected by this regulation; GDPR directly impacts our day-to-day operations. While the new regulation certainly presents an implementation challenge, APCO Insight sees, and encourages other firms in this space to see, this as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to a key pillar underpinning our industry – the protection of participant anonymity and their personal opinions.

Research like ours is built entirely on a premise of trust. We rely every day on individuals, from consumers to opinion leaders to employees, to participate and share their personal opinions. Given that the topics we explore can be sensitive, a high level of trust in the anonymity of their responses is necessary for people to feel comfortable sharing. We at APCO Insight have always taken seriously our responsibility to handle with care the sensitive personal information entrusted to us. However, as the sheer amount of data on individuals grows and the data mining industry expands, there is a growing call for stricter adherence to—and more transparency around—privacy standards in order to protect individuals who may not want their data to be public or shared. 

Rather than wait for governments outside of the EU to eventually dictate more rigorous privacy regulations, GDPR allows APCO Insight to step up and reaffirm our commitment to data privacy by proactively adopting these higher standards, not just in the European Union, but globally. And we encourage others to take up the challenge of doing the same. People are hungry for companies to do the right thing.

Brandon Olsen, a research manager for APCO Insight, also contributed to this post

For more information on how companies can behave responsibly and advocate on important issues, please visit: Corporate Advocacy in Five Acts



Lindsey Mears

Lindsey Mears is a research manager with APCO Insight in the Washington, D.C. office. Read More

April Gillis
April Gillis

April Gillis is a senior research analyst with APCO Insight, the opinion research group at APCO Worldwide and is based in Washington, D.C. Read More