Consumers are short on company confidence of late. New research by Kantar TNS indicates that Americans are becoming suspicious of even the most trusted brands with their personal data, and they are suspecting the government of invasion of privacy.

Sixty percent of American consumers object to having any of their online activities monitored, even in exchange for added convenience. Furthermore, many consumers feel that they are losing out on the value exchange even when they aren’t providing data, as 49 percent stated that content posted by most trusted brands simply isn’t relevant to them.

This mien of mistrust extends beyond just brand marketing, however.

Close to 60 percent of Americans believe that the government doesn’t use personal information it’s acquired to provide better services, and 53 percent claim that the information they see on social media is unreliable.

Despite the pervasive view among marketers that when it comes to data, more is merrier, Liam Hickey, vice president of Kantar TNS, recommends a middle path.

“Protect boundaries—only collect what you need, don’t be creepy and remember the value exchange,” Hickey told AListDaily. “Do people really feel it’s a fair exchange? Are you providing a real benefit?”

In most cases, the answer to these questions seems to be no.

The Brand Trust Divide

While the fake news crisis of recent months has caused many Americans to grow suspicious of global organizations, markets such as China and India feel differently.

“We see a big polarization between developed and developing countries,” Hickey said. “In developing markets, people tend to trust big, global brands more. In developed markets, it is the opposite—small, local brands are most trusted.”

In emerging markets, 48 percent of the study’s respondents claimed to place more trust in global brands, compared to just 23 percent in developed countries and 21 percent in the US. Outside of America, consumers are less suspicious of brands on social media as well, with only a third claiming that brand content is not relevant to them.

These differences between American and worldwide markets suggest that acting small can ingratiate brands with consumers. Compared even to other developed countries, US consumers more frequently rank local companies as their most trusted brands. Thirty-seven percent of Americans trust small brands more, with only 30 percent of developed-market consumers and 21 percent of emerging-market consumers sharing the sentiment.

As more consumers worry about invasion of privacy and companies selling their personal information, the best course forward may be to emphasize honesty over convenience and build brand trust with transparency.

“Keep your customers’ secrets safe,” Hickey said. “Be transparent in asking permission, and, crucially, own up if anything does go wrong.”