Concerns Over Data Privacy Hit Record High

Headlines detailing government snooping online are having an adverse effect on consumer confidence, including concerns over how private companies handle consumer data to shape their online advertising strategy, according to a survey released to mark Data Privacy Day.

Privacy awareness body Truste has today (28 January) released its annual Consumer Confidence Index, revealing 60% of participants in the survey were more concerned about their online privacy compared to 12 months ago, with 89% actively “avoiding” companies they don’t believe protect their privacy adequately.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos Mori questioning over 2,000 UK-based web users over their online privacy concerns post the emergence of just how drastic the scale of online surveillance from national security forces has become (and the complicity of companies such as Facebook and Google in these techniques).

However, it seems that contagion has spread to the private sector too, as there are three times as many survey participants concerned about companies sharing their personal information with other companies (60%), than governments’ monitoring activity (20%).

Today marks Global Data Privacy Day – a day marked to raise awareness of online safety – with Ken Parnham, Truste managing director, Europe, commenting that the online advertising sector can only suffer over such widespread negative public sentiment.

He says: “After a barrage of media headlines about government surveillance programmes such as NSA’s PRISM, it is perhaps unsurprising that consumer online trust has fallen to its lowest point yet, with only 55% of internet users prepared to trust companies with personal data online.

“It is a wake-up call for businesses that commercial data collection and sharing, rather than government activity, is the main driver of increased online privacy concerns.”

In fact the use of personal data for the purposes of targeting online advertising ranked as the second-biggest concern among the survey participants, with 54% of respondents reporting it as a major concern, while 19% were concerned about companies tracking their location on a smartphone.

EU regulation

The release comes as EU bodies debate moves to standardise data protection regulations across the entity’s 28 member states, to provide companies with a “one-stop shop” to form their data protection policies, including insisting that consumers have both “the right to be forgotten”, plus requiring that companies receive the consent of the consumer before using their data for advertising.

Viviane Reding, the EU VP and justice commissioner, is poised to deliver a speech on the progress of the negotiations later today (28 January) where she will further reveal details to roll out the standardisation.