TrustArc Blog

The State of Online Privacy 2016

January 28, 2016

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The TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance U.S. Consumer Privacy Index reveals the extent of current consumer privacy concerns with more Americans concerned about not knowing how the personal information collected about them online is used than losing their principal source of income.

Released today, to coincide with the ninth Data Privacy Day (#PrivacyAware), the study found that online privacy concerns topped the loss of personal income by 11 percentage points, despite only 3 in 10 Americans understanding how companies share their personal information. The business impact of consumers’ privacy concerns remains high with 89% avoiding companies they don’t believe protect their privacy and 74% of those who worry about their privacy limiting their online activity in the last 12 months due to their concerns.

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Consumers Demand Transparency

Just 56% of Americans trust businesses with their personal information online, exposing a significant lack of trust. What can companies do to close this gap? The answer is simple – transparency.

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

The Right to be Forgotten

Interestingly given that the so-called ‘Right to be Forgotten’ for Europeans is now enshrined in the new EU General Data Protection Regulation, 60% of Americans think they also have this right. Perhaps, unsurprisingly 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%) down seven percentage points from last year’s study. In the context of the Internet of Things – 37% think losing online privacy is a part of being more connected

Good Privacy is Good Business 

“Consumer privacy concern is real and rising and businesses need to act now to rebuild trust with their customers before it hurts the bottom line through lost clicks, downloads and sales,” said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe. “With 3 out of 4 Americans modifying their online activity last year due to privacy concerns this research shows privacy is not just good practice it is simply good business.”

The TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance U.S. Consumer Privacy Index 2016 is based on data from an online survey conducted by Ipsos with around 1,000 US Internet users December 17 to 22, 2015. The research was commissioned by TRUSTe and the NCSA, building on tracking studies conducted over the past six years by both organizations. Comparable research was also conducted in Great Britain.

Check out the detailed findings in the infographics for the US and Great Britain.