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More Than Nine in 10 Internet Users Worry About Online Privacy

Internet users most concerned about businesses sharing their personal data

Internet users are more concerned about their online privacy than ever before, according to December 2013 research conducted by Harris Interactive for data privacy management firm TRUSTe.

Overall, 92% of US internet users reported worrying about their privacy online, up slightly from 89% in January 2013. Further, 74% of respondents said they were more concerned about their privacy than they had been a year earlier—a number that was also up since 2013.

Nearly half of US internet users said they worried about online privacy at least “frequently,” with 45% reporting doing so “sometimes.”

Some marketers have speculated about the revelations surrounding government monitoring of digital communications, especially in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA-related releases, and whether advertiser use of digital data might suffer a negative backlash in public opinion as a result. But the TRUSTe findings suggested that even post-Snowden, internet users were more concerned about commercial usage of their data than they were about government monitoring.

These concerns made 83% of internet users less likely to click on online ads, 80% to avoid using apps they didn’t trust with their personal information and 74% to keep location tracking turned off on their smartphones. Meanwhile, about three-quarters said they were more likely to look for privacy certifications and seals.

TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel noted that perceptions of digital privacy have changed a lot over the years—with consumers, publishers, marketers and others in the online ecosystem responding differently as the situation progresses.

“People are just really starting to understand their data has value,” he told eMarketer. That also means the expectations they put on marketers and publishers to protect the value and integrity of that data is increasing.

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