Consumers very worried about privacy, but disagree on who’s to blame

Privacy and Security in a Digital World: A Study of Consumers in the United States was conducted to understand the concerns consumers have about their privacy as more of their lives become dependent upon digital technologies. Based on the findings, the report also provides recommendations for how to protect privacy when using sites that track, share and sell personal data. Sponsored by ID Experts, we surveyed 652 consumers in the US. For the majority of these consumers, privacy of their personal information does matter.

Consumers are very concerned about their privacy when using Facebook, Google and other online tools. Consumers were asked to rate their privacy concerns on a scale of 1 = not concerned to 10 = very concerned when using online tools, devices and online services. Figure 1 presents the very concerned responses (7+ responses).

The survey found that 86 percent of respondents say they are very concerned when using Facebook and Google, 69 percent of respondents are very concerned about protecting privacy when using devices and 66 percent of respondents say they are very concerned when shopping online or using online services.

When asked if they believe that Big Tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook will protect their privacy rights through self-regulation, 40 percent of consumers say industry self-regulation will suffice. However, 60 percent of consumers say government oversight is required (34 percent) or a combination of government oversight and industry self-regulation (26 percent) is required.

Following are the most salient findings:

 The increased use of social media and awareness about the potential threat to their digital privacy has consumers more concerned about their privacy. In fact, social media websites are the least trusted (61 percent of consumers) followed by shopping sites (52 percent of consumers).

  • Consumers are most concerned about losing their civil liberties and having their identity stolen if personal information is lost, stolen or wrongfully acquired by outside parties (56 percent and 54 percent of respondents, respectively). Only 25 percent of consumers say they are concerned about marketing abuses if their personal information is lost or stolen.
  • Seventy-four percent of consumers say they rarely (24 percent) or never (50 percent) have control over their personal data. Despite this belief, 54 percent of consumers say they do not limit the data they provide when using online services. Virtually all consumers believe their email addresses and browser settings & histories are collected when using their devices, according to 96 percent and 90 percent of consumers, respectively.
  • Home is where the trust is. Forty-six percent of consumers, when asked the one location they trust most when shopping online, banking and other financial activities online, say it is their home. Only 10 percent of consumers say it is when using public WiFi.
  • Consumers believe search engines, social media and shopping sites are sharing and selling their personal data, according to 92 percent, 78 percent and 63 percent of consumers. To increase trust in online sites, consumers want to be explicitly required to opt-in before the site shares or sells their personal information, according to 70 percent of consumers.
  • Consumers reject advertisers’ use of their personal information to market to them. Seventy-three percent of consumers say advertisers should allow them to “opt-out” of receiving ads on any specific topic at any time, and 68 percent of consumers say they should not be able to serve ads based on their conversations and messaging. Sixty-four percent of consumers say they do not want to be profiled unless they grant permission.
  • Online ads and the “creepy” factor. Sixty-six percent of consumers say they have received online ads that are relevant but not based on their online search behavior or publicly available information frequently (41 percent of consumers) or rarely (25 percent of consumers). Sixty-four percent of consumers say they think it is “creepy” when that happens.
  • Forty-five percent of consumers are not aware that their devices have privacy controls they can use to set their level of information sharing. Of the 55 percent of consumers who are aware, 60 percent say they review and update settings on their computers and 56 percent say they review and update settings on their smartphones.
  • Fifty-four percent of consumers say online service providers should be held most accountable for protecting consumers’ privacy rights when going online. Forty-five percent of consumers say they themselves should be most accountable.

Download the full report at the ID Experts website.

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