Privacy Nerves: Most Consumers Won't Share Anything About Themselves

For all the buzz about online buying during the pandemic, consumers are wary about releasing information about themselves, according to Consumer Privacy Trends Report 2021, a study from Tinuiti, conducted by Upwave.

When asked what types of data they would share to receive a discount (aside from their email address) fewer than 50% say they would surrender information of any kind. Moreover, 78% overall believe there’s no such thing as online privacy and 79% think their mobile phones are listening in. 

That doesn’t give email marketers and others who rely on data much room to operate in. 

But it depends on age: 60% of people under 40 feel they have control of their data, versus less than 49% of those over that age. 

Among those who trust no one with their data, 41% feel that having phone location services turned on is an unnecessary of privacy — 32% higher than the survey. And only 44% in this group enjoy ads that are relevant to their needs — 30% lower than all respondents. 



Overall, 31% say phone tracking is an unnecessary invasion of privacy, and 23.5% say it is like having a digital stalker. 

Fear runs high. In 2016, then FBI Director James Comey recommended webcam covering back in 2016, and 57% of consumers now cover their laptop webcams. That includes almost 66% of Gen Zers and 84% of millennials. 

Moreover, 74% are cautious even about researching certain topics on the web. 

But go figure — 76% of those who trust none of the major sites are comfortable buying apparel online, 25% higher than the average. And 50% feel the same about buying beauty products, furniture and technology on web sites. 

Of all the respondents, 37% agree that they are cautious about researching certain topics online because they fear it reveals too much personal information. And 37% somewhat agree, whereas 27% disagree. 

Drilling down, 34% of those over 40 agree, along with 39% of phone shoppers and 29% of voice shoppers.  

Understandably, people who visit adult sites are even more careful about covering their tracks, as the study puts it, women in particular. 

Of those polled, 42% of women say they do not visit adult sites,  compared with 23% of men. But of those who do, 60% of women take extra steps to protect their privacy, versus 54% of men. 

Which data will consumers share with marketers? Of those surveyed, 44.1% would provide their phone number, while 42 .7% would provide their location and 31.5% would provide their SMS. 

Asked which websites they would trust with their data, they said:

  • Amazon — 55.3%
  • Google — 43.7%
  • Facebook — 28.2%
  • Other social channels — 10%
  • None of the above — 20.1%

But gender is also a factor here. For instance, 57.9% of women trust Amazon, but only 51.3% of men trust it.

However, men are more trusting of Google, by a margin of 45.8% to 42.4%, and Facebook by 20.9% to 27.2%. Men and women are roughly equal when it comes to trusting none of them. 

People who buy stocks (22%) and financial products (20%) are more aware than others that they are being tracked. 

Among the financial buyers, 71% know that the apps they install track their browsing behavior. And 60% realize their data is sold to other companies.

Among people who fill prescriptions, 68% are aware of the app tracking, and 58% know of the sale of their information. 

Overall, 63% of consumers understand their data is being tracked, and over 50% that it is being sold. People who earned $90,000+ are more savvy about it. 

Via Upwave’s Digital Network, consumers are interviewed in exchange for access to content or a service, such as free wifi.

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