Privacy Concerns Affect Purchase Decisions

Worries about privacy and security raised by social media have something of a halo effect, spilling over into purchase decisions for important items like smartphones and tablet computers, as well as guiding choices about which companies they do business with, according to a study by Edelman, titled "Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action Global Insights 2012.”

Overall the study found that 70% of people say they are more concerned about privacy than they were five years ago, while 68% feel they have lost control over how their information is shared and used by businesses. While social media companies like Facebook are just one factor contributing to this trend, it seems undeniable that they are also one of the most prominent.

These concerns have real impacts on purchase decisions, Edelman noted, to the extent that consumers are now “weighing considerations about security and privacy as heavily as those relating to a product's design, style, and physical dimensions.”

Thus, 48% of respondents said that data security is one of the top three factors they take into account when shopping for smartphones -- in many cases ahead of considerations like style, design, warranty, and the size of the product. Likewise half of desktop shoppers and 42% of tablet computer shoppers say data security is one of their top three considerations when choosing a device.

In the same vein, 46% of respondents said they have left or avoided companies that suffered security breaches. And there is clearly a perception that companies aren’t doing enough to protect data and privacy. Thus while 92% of respondents said data security is important in finance and banking, only 69% said they actually trust financial institutions to protect their personal information. Similarly, 84% said they think data security is important for online shopping, but just 33% said they trust online retailers to protect it.

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