A new study has revealed that British consumers are becoming increasingly worried about how companies are using the data they provide online. Data privacy concerns in Britain are now at a level where more people worry about their data and how it is being used than about losing their main source of income.
The National Cyber Security Alliance GB Consumer Privacy Index/TRUSTe study results were released in time for European Data Protection Day on January, 28: An international day which aims to improve consumer awareness of data privacy issues, and encourages businesses to do more to ensure that stored data are properly protected.
Now in its tenth year, Data Protection Data (Data Privacy Day in the United States), is recognized by over 47 EU countries. A number of privacy initiatives are launched on January 28, and efforts are made to improve awareness of the types of data that are being collected on consumers, how they are being used, and the risks that come from providing those data to companies.
This year, there is a major focus on increasing awareness of how companies are sharing the data that are provided to them by consumers.
Study reveals major data privacy concerns in Britain
The online survey, conducted by Ipsos, took a representative sample of 1,000 individuals in the UK and probed attitudes to data privacy and the measures currently being adopted by consumers to protect online privacy. Respondents were asked about online browsing habits from a privacy perspective, and trust issues they had with websites and web applications.
955 respondents said they were concerned about their privacy online and 364 respondents said they had stopped using an app or website in the past 12 months due to privacy concerns. For many of the respondents, online privacy was such a concern that they worried more about the use and exposure of their data than losing their primary source of income. British online privacy concerns ranked 10 percentage points higher than the fear of loss of the main source of income.
Concern can be explained, in part, by the lack of transparency about how consumer data is being used by companies, and with whom they are being shared. 1 in 4 respondents claimed not to know how companies were using and sharing their data.
Privacy fears were shown to be affecting how consumers view businesses and appear to influence the use of online services. Of the individuals who were concerned about their online privacy, 76% limited their online activities as a result.
The lack of transparency about how data is used can have a serious impact on business. 89% of respondents said they avoid companies that they do not believe will do enough to protect their privacy. The message to businesses is: Fail to explain what is done with data and consumers will take their business elsewhere.
How are British privacy concerns affecting online activity?
The survey examined privacy concerns in Britain and how those concerns affected online activity in the past 12 months.
- 46% claimed to have withheld personal information from online companies
- 23% stopped an online transaction due to privacy concerns
- 53% did not click on an advert as they were worried about their privacy
- 31% avoided downloading an app or product due to a perceived privacy risk
More than half of respondents (54%) do not trust businesses to be able to store and protect their personal information online and 51% said they do not feel they are in control of their online data.
One of the ways that companies can improve trust is by allowing consumers to remove their data on request. 43% said that they would trust a company more if they were made aware how they could remove personal information if they so required.
Interestingly, while data privacy concerns in Britain are high, the majority of respondents did little to protect their privacy. For instance, 58% of respondents were aware they could delete cookies from their computers, yet only 49% did. Location tracking on Smartphones can be turned off and 44% of respondents were aware of this, yet only 28% actually disabled the feature. Only 12% of respondents read privacy policies, yet 31% claimed that they knew that they could be read.
With data privacy concerns in Britain so high, businesses that fail to do enough to secure data and protect consumer privacy are likely to lose out to companies that do. Furthermore, once online trust is lost, it can be difficult to regain.