Funny Business: Few Consumers Trust Firms To Ethically Use Their Data

Most consumers know their personal data is being gathered online. But only 24% trust brands to ethically use that data, according to User Attitudes Towards Privacy, a study released Monday by Incogni.

Moreover, most consumers believe tech companies should be more regulated. They say: 

  • Tech companies should be more regulated when handling private data — 71%
  • I am aware of my right to privacy online — 56% 
  • I know which laws protect my privacy rights — 31% 
  • Privacy-protection laws in my state are adequate — 27% 
  • My state government is doing enough to protect my privacy online — 22% 
  • The U.S. government is doing enough to protect my privacy online — 20% 

There is not much good news for marketers in the report. One hopeful nugget may be that only a minority of consumers have asked a business to remove their personal data—62% never have, 17% have done so once and 21% more than once. 



Of consumers who have made such requests once, 33% say the data removal was successful, as do 24% who have made these requests more than once. But 31% overall do not know the outcome. However, 45% found the process easy, and 17% found it extremely easy.

Another positive tidbit is that younger consumers -- who will eventually dominate the market --  trust private companies more, and are more likely to know about private services for removing data.

In general, 52% of consumers say they understand how their personal data is being collected online. But only 37% have heard of the dreaded "data brokers."

And of those who have, 21% say they know what data brokers do, and 20% understand how brokers use their personal data. 

Of those who do feel they understand what these brokers do, 82% feel tech companies should be more regulated, compared to 73% who don’t know what they do. 

Men are more aware of data brokers than women — at 43% versus 31%. But only 29% of males and 20% of females know of services to help them protect or remove their data, men being slightly more aware.  

Of those who read privacy policies, 49% think personal data is being sold by private companies. Another 26% disagree, while 25% don’t know. 

Another finding is that over 90% have received spam emails, 45% always and 30% often. But few have often experienced personal data breaches.  

In addition, consumers agree fully or partially with these statements: 

  • I believe I can be targeted by cybercriminals — 70% 
  • I worry about online safety — 59%
  • I read privacy policies before signing up for any service — 39%
  • I know what I should do if my personal information is stolen — 39%
  • I generally know what cookie policies say when selecting them while browsing — 39%
  • I feel safe online — 26% 
  • I think the internet is now safer than it used to be 2 years ago — 26%

“Awareness being so low indicates there is very little knowledge about cybersecurity and how to act safely online,” concludes concludes Darius Belejevas, head of Incogni. “Teaching girls at a young age about cybersecurity could help empower women to protect their online privacy and safety,” 

Incogni surveyed 2,310 U.S. consumers. 



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