As online trust remains at a three year low, US Internet users say more transparency from companies is key to reducing concern
San Francisco, [text-blocks id=”post-date”] – The latest edition of the annual TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index shows that online privacy is a hot button issue for Americans with 92 percent concerned about their privacy when using the internet and 42 percent are more concerned than a year ago. Most surprisingly, when presented with the statement ‘Personal online privacy is not as important as national security’, 45 percent disagreed. As online trust remains at a three year low, the business impact is significant with 77 percent moderating their online behavior over the last 12 months due to privacy concerns.
The top cause of concern is the possibility of companies sharing personal data with other companies (38 percent), ahead of online security threats such as the Heartbleed bug (36 percent) and Government surveillance through programs such as the NSA’s PRISM (28 percent).
Among those who worry about their privacy, 37 percent said companies being more transparent about how they are collecting and using data and more active in enforcement of measures to protect privacy online were the best ways to lower their concerns. Last week, President Obama announced a package of measures in his State of the Union address to enhance consumers’ security and improve privacy online; 27 percent say that Governments passing more legislation to protect their personal information online would help alleviate their concerns.
The TRUSTe 2015 US Consumer Confidence Privacy Index, is based on data from two online surveys conducted by Ipsos with around 1,000 US Internet users between November 28 and January 15. The research was commissioned by TRUSTe, the leading data privacy management company and released to coincide with Data Privacy Day #DPD2015. The full findings will be presented during the first exclusive Roundtable event of the TRUSTe Privacy Insight Series today in San Francisco CA. Comparable research was also conducted in Great Britain.
Chris Babel CEO, TRUSTe commented:
“With the highest number of data breaches on record in 2014, it is hardly surprising that the privacy and security of online data is a hot button issue for Americans and a growing concern. But with frequent terrorist threats reported on the news it is surprising that so many people consider their personal privacy more important than countering that threat.
Governments tread a fine line between balancing national security and consumer privacy rights; for businesses the stakes are high too. In an increasingly interconnected world, lack of trust can limit growth and strangle innovation as companies are deprived of the data they need to drive sales.
These findings show the scale of the impact as 3 out of 4 Americans who are concerned about their privacy have modified their online behavior in the last year meaning less data, fewer clicks and lost sales. The message is simple: don’t wait for legislation or the next data breach – act now to get your privacy strategy in order and rebuild trust with your customers.”
Detailed findings from 2015 US Consumer Confidence Privacy Research:
Overall, the research found that consumer online privacy concerns remain extremely high with 92 percent of American internet users worrying to some extent about their privacy online – the same percentage as in January 2014. 44 percent said they were frequently or always concerned and 42 percent agreed they were more concerned than one year ago.
When those who worry about their privacy online were asked what had contributed most to this feeling, 38 percent said companies sharing their personal information with other companies, while 36 percent were concerned about recent security threats such as the Heartbleed bug. 28 percent listed government surveillance programs such as the NSA’s PRISM as a reason for their increased concern – a slight increase over the previous year.
In general, consumer trust remains low. Just over half of American Internet users (55 percent) agreed that they trust most companies with their personal information online. This is the same percentage as in 2014 having fallen from 57 percent in January 2013 and 59 percent in January 2012. The business impact of this is growing, as 91 percent say they avoid doing business with companies they do not believe protect their privacy.
Concern about online privacy has a negative impact on business. In the last 12 months, 77 percent of those who worry about their online privacy moderated their online activity due to their concerns:
- 57 percent have not clicked on an online ad
- 51 percent withheld some personal information they were asked for
- 35 percent have not downloaded an app/product
- 25 percent stopped an online transaction before completing it
- 9 percent deleted an online account
86 percent have taken active steps to protect their privacy in the last 12 months but around half (49 percent) say they still don’t think they dedicate enough time to this. In the last year:
- 63 percent say that they have deleted cookies
- 44 percent have changed their privacy settings on their browser or social media sites
- 25 percent have turned off location tracking on their smartphone
- 10 percent have opted out of behavioral ads
Businesses can take steps to rebuild trust. Of those who worry about their privacy online, almost half (47 percent) say that providing clear procedures for removing personal information could improve the extent to which companies that handle personal data are trusted. 31 percent would like companies to ask for permission before using cookies and offer notice and ways to opt out of targeted ads. 30 percent would like information on how their personal information is used and easy opportunities to stop being contacted by third parties. 21 percent would like privacy policies to be written in language that is easy to understand.
The 2015 Privacy Insight Series Roundtable in San Francisco is just one of a number of events in which TRUSTe is participating, speaking or sponsoring in support of Data Privacy Day 2014 #DPD15. Data Privacy Day is an international day of awareness designed to educate people on privacy issues and how to safeguard personal information. TRUSTe has been named as a Data Privacy Day Champion by the National Cyber Security Alliance.
The 2015 US Consumer Confidence Privacy Index research was conducted by Ipsos using an online survey among a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18-75 in the US between November 28 and December 5 2014. Among these, 904 were aware of activities related to data privacy, 861 were aware of activities that could be done to protect online privacy, while 978 said they ever worry about their privacy online.
Ipsos carried out an additional online survey among a representative quota sample of 993 adults age 18-75 in the US January 12-15. Survey data for both studies were weighted by age, gender, region and working status to known population proportions.
Comparison data for the US for the previous three years is drawn from research conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of TRUSTe from December 11-13, 2013 among 2,019 U.S. adults age 18 and older, from January 7-9, 2013 among 2,166 U.S. adults age 18 and older and from January 17-21, 2012 among 2,415 U.S. adults age 18 and older. These surveys can be accessed here and form part of TRUSTe’s ongoing consumer privacy research program.