How important is online privacy?

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.

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.

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
  • 23 percent have read the privacy policy on a website or app
  • 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.

Chris Babel CEO, TRUSTe commented: “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.

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.

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How important is online privacy?