The privacy attitudes of 15,000 consumers from 15 countries

Spanning 15 countries and 15,000 consumers, the the EMC Privacy Index reveals consumers hold viewpoints on privacy that vary widely by geography and the type of activity engaged in while online.

The long-standing debate over how much visibility governments and businesses should have regarding people’s private activities, communications and behaviors has continued into the online world. The study explores how consumers worldwide view their online privacy rights and measures willingness to forfeit the benefits and conveniences of the connected world for the assurances of privacy.

The conclusion? People want benefits of technology without sacrificing privacy. Three privacy paradoxes emerged, each with powerful implications for consumers, businesses and technology providers:

“We Want it All” Paradox: Consumers say they want all conveniences and benefits of digital technology, yet say they are unwilling to trade privacy to get them.

“Take No Action” Paradox: Although privacy risks directly impact many consumers, most say they take virtually no special action to protect their privacy – instead placing the onus on those handling their information such as government and businesses.

“Social Sharing” Paradox: Users of social media sites claim they value privacy, yet they say they freely share large quantities of personal data – despite expressing a lack of confidence and trust in those institutions to protect that information.

People behave differently depending on the type of activity, which can be categorized with a number of online personas (or “Me’s”), each with different attitudes towards privacy. The six personas evaluated include:

  • Social Me – interaction with social media sites, email programs, text/SMS and other communications services
  • Financial Me – interaction with banks and other financial institutions
  • Citizen Me – interaction with government institutions
  • Medical Me – interaction with doctors, medical institutions and health insurers
  • Employee Me – interaction with employment-related systems and Web sites
  • Consumer Me – interaction with online stores.

Viewpoints on privacy vary wildly by persona. For instance, viewed through the lense of the citizen persona respondents showed the greatest willingness to forfeit privacy – to gain protection or for easier and more efficient online access to government benefits. Meanwhile, their “social” persona claims to be the least willing to give up privacy for greater social connectedness.

Michael Kaiser, Executive Director, National Cyber Security Alliance, said: “The data captured in the EMC Privacy Index gives a fascinating view into the attitudes of global consumers and validates a fundamental point – respecting privacy and safeguarding data is a core value that should be shared by businesses, governments and individuals to enable a more trusted ecosystem. If organizations are transparent and accountable for their information management practices, individuals will be able to better manage their digital lives consistent with how they want to share information about themselves.”

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