Consumers care more about business data collection than government surveillance

TRUSTe released its latest U.S. Consumer Confidence Index, which shows that a high proportion of U.S. adults aged 18 and older are worried about their privacy online, online trust is declining and the potential impact on business remains high.

74 percent of U.S. internet users are more concerned about privacy than a year ago and more users cite business data collection, than government surveillance programs, as the reason for the increase in their concerns.

“Even with all the media coverage of government surveillance programs such as the NSA’s PRISM, more consumers remain concerned about businesses collecting their information with only 55 percent regularly willing to share their personal data online. These findings send a clear signal that business data collection, not government activity, is the main driver for increased privacy concerns,” said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe. “While some businesses are taking steps today to address privacy concerns, many are not, and the bar is rising.”

Babel added, “This research shows that people are more confident managing their privacy, but the actions they are taking are bad for businesses making them less likely to click on ads, use apps, or enable location tracking on smart phones. Companies need to act now to protect consumers and their personal information, which is vital to the success of their business, and address these high privacy concerns to build online trust, minimize risk and stay ahead of the competition.”

The survey reveals that:

  • Consumer online privacy concerns remain high with 92 percent of US internet users worrying about their privacy online (up from 89 percent in January 2013 and 90 percent in January 2012)
  • More than half of U.S. internet users 55 percent said they trust most businesses with their personal information online (down from 57 percent in January 2013 and 59 percent in January 2012); and
  • 89 percent of consumers (no change from January 2013 and up from 88 percent in January 2012) said that they avoided doing business with companies they do not believe protect their privacy online.

TRUSTe 2014 U.S. Consumer Confidence Privacy Report
Conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of TRUSTe, the survey that was fielded online among 2,019 U.S. adults between December 11-13, 2013, shows that overall privacy concerns of U.S. online adults remain high, with 92 percent worrying at least sometimes about their general online privacy compared with 89 percent in findings from a similar study conducted via Harris Interactive in January 2013.

When U.S. internet users who are more concerned about privacy online now than they were a year ago were asked in more detail about the top causes of privacy concerns, businesses sharing personal information and companies tracking online behavior topped the list of concerns. Specific findings include:

  • 58 percent were concerned about businesses sharing their personal information with other companies;
  • 47 percent were concerned about companies tracking their online behavior to target them with ads and content; and only
  • 38 percent listed media coverage of U.S. government surveillance programs as a reason for increased concern.

Consumer trust has declined and 70 percent of U.S. internet users feel more confident about managing their privacy than one year ago and common actions they are taking include:

  • 83 percent are less likely to click on advertisements
  • 80 percent of smartphone users avoid using smartphone apps they don’t believe protect their privacy
  • 74 percent of smartphone users are less likely to enable location tracking on their smartphone.

In addition to these actions, 76 percent of consumers are more likely to look for privacy certifications and seals to address their privacy concerns.

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