The proliferation of information across the internet and the increasing amount of personal data people have stored on the web through sites such as Facebook has been the subject of much chin-rubbing in recent years, with analysts concerned about security risks and other potential pitfalls.
Making sense of this data and using it to shape advertising campaigns is a useful way for marketers to engage in well-focused and intelligent conversations with consumers, but the recent furore appears to have rubbed off on the general public, meaning the industry needs to step carefully.
According to a new report from Deloitte, only 38 per cent of web users in the UK believe companies will definitely keep their data safe, while just 22 per cent feel that their information will not be sold on to other organisations.
This lack of trust is understandable, both given the media focus on hacking over the last two years and the impenetrable nature of many privacy policies.
Deloitte suggested that it would take Britons 31 hours to wade through the privacy policies of all the websites they visited in a year, indicating one reason why so many consumers are uncertain about how their data is being treated.
Harvey Lewis, Deloitte Analytics research director, said the onus is on marketers and their clients to ensure that customer are well-informed on their information use policies.
"Businesses are more likely to get maximum benefit from data if every customer interaction is based on the principles of transparency, trust and informed dialogue," he added.
While marketers can gain an advantage by making use of personal information in a way that allows them to shape their advertising, it is equally true that misuse of this resource can have a devastating effect on a brand.
At the moment, only 35 per cent of people know their data is being collected in this way, and driving up awareness of this is one way firms can avoid criticism further down the line.