Consumers More Concerned About Businesses Sharing Data than Governments Snooping

By Steve Anderson January 28, 2014

While the Edward Snowden affair is still writ large across our collective unconscious, and many are starting to look askance at the government, there are other concerns facing the regular people out there. The newest edition of the TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index shows that there are much bigger concerns out there for regular people than how much snooping the government is doing, and by a pretty substantial margin.

The TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index turned to 2,011 British Internet users to generate its data, in a collection period that went from December 13 to December 18. The study showed that 60 percent of polled Internet users are concerned about privacy, and more so now than said users were a year ago. That's a fairly substantial number, but it only gets worse when more specific points are examined. For instance, 55 percent of users trust most companies with personal information, and that's a huge hit. Why? Because 89 percent of consumers will actively avoid companies who said consumers believe isn't keeping up on the privacy side of the bargain.

In fact, users are more concerned, by a factor of around three to one, with businesses not keeping confidential data appropriately confidential than said users are with government snooping. 20 percent reported concern about the government watching, but 60 percent had concern about what businesses were doing with information that should have stayed private.

Increased privacy concerns, meanwhile, have some serious impact on many business operations. For instance, in environments of increased concern, 64 percent of users are less likely to activate location tracking on a smartphone, which in turn can hurt businesses that offer location-based services and offers to users. 78 percent will shy away from smartphone apps perceived as not protecting privacy, and a hefty 91 percent of users are less likely to click on online advertisements, a huge blow to many online content providers.

Online privacy is, clearly, very important to online users, but what the results of the TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index make quite clear as well is that companies must make a clear, concerted and extremely visible effort to protect the privacy of individual users. Failure to do so has clear bottom-line implications, according to the results of this study, and for those companies that don't want to run afoul of such implications, the first and best thing to do is make clear efforts in protecting user privacy. But customers these days are less trusting, so simple statements about the protection of privacy likely won't do here. It will take tangible efforts, with clear and practical points, to make headway here.

The recent rash of data thefts going on at major stores like Target and Neiman Marcus certainly doesn't help matters, and will likely serve to make users more gunshy about turning to online purchases or even online advertising. That's likely to be a big hit to many businesses, both online and brick and mortar, so making the effort to improve privacy will likely prove a big help in the long run. Businesses can't function in an environment where customers don't feel safe, no matter whether the business is online or in the real world. So for those businesses that can extend security to customers along with good prices, the results are likely to be pronounced.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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