Consumers Concerned About Data Use

Consumers are concerned about the security of their personal information, and they’re beginning to take action when it comes to how much they trust companies and organizations about the use of that data. 

According to a poll of 1,000 U.S. adults online in early March by GfK, 88% of consumers are at least a little concerned about the privacy of their personal data and nearly half (49%) are “very” concerned, particularly after high-profile breaches over the past few months. Nearly a third of consumers, meanwhile, say they have been personally affected by a data breach. (Nearly 60% said their concern has risen over the past twelve months.)

“This research is a reminder, if not a wake-up call, to a lot of organizations,” says Annie Weber, EVP of public affairs and corporate communications and consumer experiences, North America, for GfK. “For several years, people have known there was an issue [with data security], but there has been a tipping point in the past few months.”

These concerns are leading to a change in consumer behavior. According to the survey, nearly half of consumers (48%) are changing their online habits (such as avoiding online banking, social networks or other resources) because of these fears. At the same time, they think other organizations, such as social networks and credit card companies (56%) or the U.S. government (54%) should be doing more to help prevent data breaches.

Yet there are still some sectors and industries that maintain a high degree of trust among consumers. Online retailers, for instance, are still highly trusted by consumers, despite the high-profile breaches of recent months. Hospitals and health care providers were among the most trusted organizations, receiving a positive response form more than 70% of the respondents. Online social networks were among the bottom, receiving positive marks from only 39% of consumers. 

“Organizations need to recognize that customer attitudes and behaviors could begin to change, and consumers could begin voting with their keyboards and their clicks,” Weber says. “[Organizations] need to make sure they’re communicating with customers that you’re being good stewards and transparent [with how you use] their data.”

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