45% of British Consumers Think Online Privacy is More Important than National Security

45% of British Consumers Think Online Privacy is More Important than National Security


As online trust falls to lowest point in four years, British Internet users say more transparency from companies is key to reducing concern

San Francisco, 28 January, 2015 – The latest edition of the annual TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index shows that online privacy is a significant concern in Britain with 92 percent of Internet users worried about their privacy when using the internet and 1 in 3 (33 percent) more concerned than a year ago. Most surprisingly, when presented with the statement ‘Personal online privacy is not as important as national security’, 45 percent disagreed. As online trust continues to fall, the business impact is significant with 4 out of 5 (80 percent) moderating their online activity over the last 12 months due to privacy concerns.

The top cause of concern is the possibility of companies collecting personal data and sharing it with other companies (48 percent), a bigger factor than online security threats such as the Heartbleed bug (35 percent) or Government surveillance through programs such as the NSA’s PRISM (21 percent). 42 percent say that companies being more transparent about how they are collecting and using data and more active in enforcement of measures to protect privacy online (36 percent) would be the best ways to lower their concerns. With the proposed EU General Data Protection Regulation still under discussion, 35 percent say that passing more legislation to protect personal information online would help alleviate their concerns.

The TRUSTe 2015 GB Consumer Confidence Privacy Index, is based on data from two online surveys conducted by Ipsos MORI with around 1,000 British Internet users between 28 November – January. The research was commissioned by TRUSTe, the leading data privacy management company and released to coincide with Data Privacy Day #DPD2015. The full findings will be presented during the first exclusive Roundtable event of the TRUSTe Privacy Insight Series today. Comparable research was also conducted in the US.

Chris Babel CEO, TRUSTe commented:
“With the highest number of data breaches on record in 2014, it is hardly surprising that the privacy and security of online data is a big issue in Britain and a growing concern. But with frequent terrorist threats reported on the news it is surprising that so many people consider their personal privacy more important than countering that threat.

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.

These findings show the scale of the impact as 4 out of 5 British consumers who are concerned about their privacy have modified their online behaviour in the last year meaning less data, fewer clicks and lost sales. The message is simple: don’t wait for legislation or the next data breach – act now to get your privacy house in order and rebuild trust with your customers.”

Detailed findings from 2015 GB Consumer Confidence Privacy Index:

Overall, the research found that consumer online privacy concerns remain extremely high with 92 percent of British internet users worrying to some extent about their privacy online compared with 89 percent in January 2013. 34 percent said they were frequently or always concerned and 33 percent agreed they were more concerned than one year ago.

When those more concerned about their privacy online were asked what had contributed most to this feeling, 48 percent said companies sharing their personal information with other companies, while 35 percent were concerned about recent security threats such as the Heartbleed bug. 21 percent listed government surveillance programs such as the NSA’s PRISM, as a reason for their increased concern.

Consumer trust continues to fall. Just over half of British Internet users (51 percent) agreed that they trust most companies with their personal information online. This is down from 55 percent in 2014 and the fourth consecutive year that consumer trust has fallen. The business impact of this is high, as 89 percent say they avoid companies they do not believe protect their privacy.

Concern about online privacy has a negative impact on business. In the last 12 months 80 percent limited their online activity due to their privacy concerns:

  • 58 percent have not clicked on an online ad
  • 53 percent withheld personal information they were asked for
  • 37 percent have not downloaded an app/product
  • 26 percent stopped an online transaction before completing it
  • 8 percent deleted an online account
  • 87 percent have taken active steps to protect their privacy in the last 12 months but more than half (57 percent) say they still don’t think they dedicate enough time to this. In the last year:

    • 58 percent say that they have deleted cookies
    • 48 percent have changed their privacy settings on their browser or social media sites
    • 30 percent have turned off location tracking
    • 22 percent have read the privacy policy on a website or app
    • 13 percent have opted out of behavioural ads
    • Businesses can take action to rebuild consumer trust. Of those who worry about their privacy online, over half (54 percent) say that providing clear procedures for removing personal information could improve the extent to which companies that handle personal data are trusted. 39 percent would like easy opportunities to stop being contacted by third parties, 26 percent would like companies to ask for permission before using cookies and offer notice and ways to opt out of targeted ads. 25 percent would like privacy policies to be written in language that is easy to understand.

      TRUSTe is participating in, speaking at and sponsoring a number of events in support of Data Privacy Day 2014 #DPD15. Data Privacy Day is an international day of awareness designed to educate people on privacy issues and how to safeguard personal information. Now in its eighth year, Data Privacy Day commemorates the signing in 1981 of the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection and is an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe that takes place on 28 January each year. TRUSTe has been named as a Data Privacy Day Champion by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

      Research Methodology

      The 2015 GB Consumer Confidence Privacy Index research was conducted by Ipsos MORI using an online survey among a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16-75 in Great Britain between 28 November and 5 December 2014. Ipsos MORI carried out an additional online survey among a representative quota sample of 1000 adults age 16-75 in Great Britain from 9-14 January. Survey data for both studies were weighted by age, gender, region, working status and social grade to known population proportions.

      Comparison data for Great Britain for the previous three years is drawn from research conducted online on behalf of TRUSTe by Ipsos MORI from 13 – 18 December with 2,011 adults aged 16-75; from 4 – 8 January 2013 with 2,006 adults aged 16-75 and by Harris Interactive from 28 February – 7 March, 2012 with 2,012 adults aged 16 and older. These surveys can be accessed here and form part of TRUSTe’s ongoing consumer privacy research program.

      About TRUSTe

      TRUSTe powers privacy compliance and risk management with comprehensive technology, consulting and certification solutions. We have two decades experience across all industries and a team of more than 150 professionals developing innovative solutions to address global regulatory and data protection requirements.

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