Growing concerns over data privacy

Almost nine in ten (88%) US consumers are at least “a little” concerned about the privacy of their personal data, according to GfK. One in three consumers also reports being directly impacted by misuse of personal data within the past year.

The poll, conducted last month, collected insights into consumers’ attitudes, concerns, and desired solutions with regard to data and data security. Roughly half (49%) say they are now “very much” concerned about the privacy of their data, and 59% indicate that their concern has risen in the last twelve months.

Consumers also say they want more protection; 56% indicate that top organizations, such as social networks and credit card companies, need to take action, and 54% believe the US government is not doing enough to safeguard their data.

Almost 80% feel that the government should be more involved in implementing regulations to prevent organizations from “repurposing personal data for third parties.” But less than half (48%) of consumers are changing their own online habits because of privacy fears, by avoiding online banking, social networks, or other online activities and resources.

“Shared data is, in many ways, the engine of the online economy, especially in this era of Big Data,” said GfK’s CEO, Matthias Hartmann. “Keeping a close eye on consumers’ feelings about data privacy provides essential intelligence for the marketplace – allowing quicker and smarter reactions to emerging concerns. As a market research company, GfK is already well versed in handling consumer data securely and meeting the changing data needs of clients across a variety of industries.”

The survey shows that consumer trust is not equal across all industries. Online retailers are still highly trusted by consumers – even after the major data breaches of recent months – ranking as the third most trusted type of organization to handle consumers’ data. Hospitals and healthcare providers rank at the top of the most-trusted organizations, receiving a positive response from over 70% of respondents; but online social networks land in the bottom three in terms of trust, earning positive marks from only 39% of consumers.

The research also found significant differences in concern among the generations:

  • Boomers and Pre-Boomers (50 years old or more) tend to be more protective of their online activities compared to younger people. The number of Boomers and Pre-Boomers avoiding all online services is higher than in any other generation.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of Boomers and Pre-Boomers say that the government needs to do more to protect data privacy. Generations Y and Z (ages 19 to 34 years) are slightly more satisfied with the government’s current role in data protection, but their levels of concern are still high.

The GfK poll, conducted in the wake of several considerable data breaches of major brands gauged the attitudes of American consumers. GfK conducted the survey from March 7 to March 9, 2014 among 1,000 respondents, all 18 years of age or over.

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