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As the sharing economy grows, technology is outpacing our safety. What can we do about it?

It’s a fact of our human condition that the smarter we get, and the more innovation we enjoy, the more complex the risks we face. From the Industrial Revolution to molecular genetics, the more advancements we make, the more guardrails we need. But most of the time safety comes at a distant second to our ambitions to go farther, aim higher, and achieve more.

The sharing economy is proving out this paradigm. While growing exponentially, the industry lacks a cohesive approach to safety.  With a global market size valued at almost $150 billion in 2022, the industry is expected to grow 32% by 2028 (Global Sharing Economy Industry Research Report 2023). An incredible achievement that lets us use resources more efficiently, equalizes opportunities and connects us socially - the industry is arguably one of the best examples of our human ingenuity. It gives so many of us access to things we could otherwise not experience. But, as with so many of the best innovations, safety solutions have not kept pace with this advancement of technology. 

Lacking a central authority or standards, users end up bearing much of the responsibility for their own safety. And they’re ready for a change. In a recent study surveying users across eight sharing economy verticals, respondents universally reported a strong desire for apps to provide better safety features. From rideshare to online dating, to childcare, each group said not only would they choose an app with greater safety features over another, but they would also purchase or use it more as a result.

Research findings
SafeHello, Safety Sentiments in the Sharing Economy, 2023 [1]
Across the board, women feel less safe than men using sharing economy apps and more strongly desire better safety features — in particular, a better way to verify the identity of other users they are meeting. Overall, users cited a desire for better background checks and authentication of users’ identities with photo and ID cross referencing.

Contrary to popular opinion, users report a high degree of willingness to share more personal information and add friction to their own experience, if it means greater safety. 

“I would like it if the app did a background check, ID to face recognition and or reference requirement for potential matches.”

“I’d prefer the app require more steps to verify the safety precautions before the date…” 


But people want a say in how their data is used. 

Edelman’s Trust Barometer reports that in order to feel comfortable sharing their data:

79% of users said a company must “provide actions I can take to keep my data safe.” 

And 78% said they must “give me control over collection/use of my data.” 

Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 [2]

“I want to feel like the apps care about my safety…” [1]

In terms of existing solutions, there are lots of bandaids, but no holistic approach to protecting users’ safety.

A host of apps are now available, offering a range of tools from virtual panic buttons to wearables. But for users, managing fragmented apps to protect them across their different activities is a cumbersome (and often costly) step. And most solutions only offer them a real-time intervention when a safety risk is at hand, versus a proactive long term solution — not a great recipe for building trust, or safety.

A comprehensive report on the International State of Safety highlights that tech providers struggle to provide adequate safety solutions due to data silos and lack of access to reliable data. “While institutions holding data are responsible for safeguarding and protecting from misuse, this builds walls around datasets and makes it challenging for Safety Tech…It is widely agreed that collaboration across stakeholder groups is critical.” Publitas, International State of Safety Tech [3] 

The sharing economy demands a shared commitment to safety. It’s an industry built on the concept of shared resources, and that same concept should apply to ensuring its safety. Despite perceptions, users are demonstrating their willingness to step up to the plate — to share more personal information in order to ensure safer experiences. It’s time for businesses to rise to the occasion — For the industry leaders who have made these new connections come to life to demonstrate their commitment to make them happen more safely.


Are you interested in challenging industry preconceptions, and making safety a priority for your business and customers? Subscribe to our insights to stay up to date on industry developments, and join the conversation on our LinkedIn.

[1] Safe Hello, Safety Sentiments in the Sharing Economy, 2023
[2] Edelman Trust Barometer 2022
[3] Publitas, International State of Safety Tech

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