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As consumers move more of their lives to digital channels, they’re still not confident in how companies handle their personal data. In fact, a March 2014 study by GfK found that 60% of US internet users were more concerned about how companies protected personal data than they had been 12 months ago.
These worries weren’t limited to one age group, with the majority of respondents in each age demographic saying their concerns about personal information security had risen at least moderately.
Concerns about online security and privacy can have huge implications for companies. In December 2013 polling by Radius Global Market Research, more than three-quarters of internet users at least “somewhat agreed” that they would stop using a service, product or retailer if they felt their privacy was violated.
On the flipside, firms that are able to ease worries may see positive results in their sales: 78% of internet users said they only purchased from companies they trusted. More than two-thirds agreed that they only bought from companies that could handle their data, and the majority were willing to pay higher prices if they felt their privacy was valued more.
Though consumers reported growing concerns about data privacy, Radius found that few changed their passwords often: Just 39% of US internet users “regularly” changed their computer passwords, and around one-quarter changed their login information on their tablet, home network or smartphone with the same frequency.
And even when an actual threat arises, consumers aren’t likely to take action. Last month, Heartbleed—a “security flaw on one of the most widely used ‘secure socket’ encryption programs on the internet”—threatened the privacy of user information on more than 500,000 websites. An April 2014 study by Princeton Data Source for Pew Research Center’s Internet Project found that less than two in five of the 64% of internet users surveyed who had heard of the Heartbleed bug had taken steps to protect their online accounts, and fewer than three in 10 respondents were concerned about their personal information being at risk.
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