US Internet Users Deeply Worried About Digital Privacy - eMarketer

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US Internet Users Deeply Worried About Digital Privacy

More confident in retailers than the government

February 2, 2017

Even in the face of major hacks of consumer data—at Yahoo, Target and eBay to name a few—people continue to input plenty of personal information online. However, this does not stop them from expressing concern about digital privacy, or lack thereof. And they worry less when they get a reward for forking over data.

US Internet Users' Concerns About Digital Privacy, Sep 2016 (% of respondents)

A September 2016 survey of US adult internet users conducted by Regina Corso Consulting for Arbor Networks found that most respondents are concerned about their digital privacy and security.

“We should expect these concerns to increase, especially as more data is shared across different apps, devices and platforms,” said Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at eMarketer. “As these things become more integrated, it will become even less clear who is protecting the data and how secure it really is.”

Level of Concern About Consumer Privacy According to US Internet Users, by Generation, 2015 & 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

When it comes to how much confidence—or lack thereof—consumers have in different companies and institutions, opinions vary.

A spring 2016 study of US adults from Pew Research Center found that consumers tend to feel relatively secure about how telecommunications firms and credit card companies handle their personal data, and most are at least somewhat confident in their email providers, retailers and other companies they do business with.

However, consumers are much less confident in social media companies and the federal government, with around half of those polled saying they’re “not too confident” or “not at all confident” in how these entities protect citizens’ personal data.

As Petrock explained, the differences in opinions across the different sectors shows that “it’s important for marketers to try to differentiate themselves based on how private and secure they can keep their customers’ data.”

US Internet Users Who Are Willing to Share Personal Data in Exchange for Benefits/Rewards, by Demographic, Summer 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

The level of concern that internet users have about their digital privacy also tends to be influenced by age. A survey of US internet users by CivicScience found that millennial respondents are much less likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to be “very” concerned about their consumer privacy, and about one in five millennials said that they are “not at all” concerned.

And according to a summer 2016 survey of US internet users from GfK, millennials are much more comfortable taking risks in order to reap those rewards.

In the study, about four in 10 respondents in this age group agreed that they’d be willing to share personal data in exchange for benefits or rewards, compared with one in four internet users overall.

—Alison McCarthy

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