Consumers are increasingly concerned about privacy and they’re acting on it

More Americans are concerned about not knowing how the personal information collected about them online is used than losing their principal source of income.

A new study by TRUSTe and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that online privacy concerns topped the loss of personal income by 11 percentage points, even as only 3 in 10 (31%) Americans understand how companies share their personal information.

Likewise, the business impact of consumers’ privacy concerns remains high with 89 percent avoiding companies they don’t believe protect their privacy and 74 percent of those who worry about their privacy online limiting their online activity in the last 12 months due to their concerns.

Just 56 percent of Americans trust businesses with their personal information online, exposing a remarkably lacking level of trust. To close this gap, it appears consumers are demanding more transparency in exchange for trust and want to be able to control how data is collected, used and shared with simpler tools to help them manage their privacy online.

46 percent don’t feel they have control of any personal information they may have provided online, 32 percent think protecting personal information online is too complex and 38 percent of those who worry about their privacy online say companies providing clear procedures for removing personal information would increase trust.

Interestingly given the recent introduction of the so-called ‘Right to be Forgotten’ for Europeans in the EU General Data Protection Regulation, 60 percent of their American counterparts think they also have the right to be forgotten.

With the recent terrorist attacks in Paris the month before this survey was conducted, there has been a fall in the numbers who think online privacy is more important than national security (38 percent) down seven percentage points from last year’s study. 37 percent think losing online privacy is a part of being more connected.

Among all online adults, 36 percent have stopped using a website and 29 percent have stopped using an app in the last twelve months because they did not trust them to handle personal information securely. 47 percent of adults who have stopped using either a website or app said that this was because they were asked to provide too much information. Interestingly 19 percent said they continued to use a website they didn’t trust to handle their personal information responsibly, with 31 percent of those who reported doing this saying it was because it was the only website that sold a particular product or service.

Trust remains a significant issue with 56 percent of American Internet users trusting most businesses with their personal information online. Healthcare providers (74 percent) and financial organizations (72 percent) were most trusted to handle personal information responsibly. Social Networks (35 percent) and advertisers (25 percent) were the least trusted.

There is more that businesses can do to lower consumer concern and improve trust. Among those who worry about their privacy online, the two top ways to lower privacy concerns were companies being more transparent about how they are collecting and using data (35 percent) and having more easy to use tools available to protect personal information (35 percent).