Consumers Buffeted by Security Hacks Still Don’t Understand Data Privacy

But they appreciate brand transparency, says study

In spite of being constantly worried about online security in the wake of numerous data hacks and security breaches among top Web companies and retailers, market research firm Toluna found that people still don’t really understand online privacy and data security.

Three in five consumers (62 percent) said that they are more concerned about online privacy than they have been in the past, and 44 percent of those surveyed feel that they are not in control of their information on the Internet.

But even as the White House readies a report on data privacy, Toluna found that there is still some confusion about what online privacy actually means—even though the rules have been in place for a long time. Fewer than half of those surveyed characterized their understanding as “good.” About a quarter (26 percent) admitted they know little to nothing about online data use.

However, U.S. consumers understand that data can improve their online experiences. In general, they reported feeling happier about the use of their data online if they were asked for permission first, and a majority (52 percent) said they appreciate the use of targeted advertising. Two-thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) are happy to let brands use their information to serve them relevant discounts and loyalty rewards.

“Through the skeptical eye of the tech-savvy, 21st century consumer, the appeal of noisy marketing and media spin is beginning to wear off, and with growing concerns over online data privacy, the significance of honesty and frankness in business is at an all-time high,” said Mark Simon, managing director for North America at Toluna.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Toluna in conjunction with tech firm Evidon also asked respondents to pick winners and losers among major brands in terms of their protection and use of consumer data. In both cases, the vast majority of people could not cite a single example, but among those who could, Amazon was listed as a positive role model and Facebook and Google were deemed the worst abusers. 

“U.S. consumers are beginning to recognize the value of a brand that cares about its customers and is transparent about the way it operates, and it’s clear that openness leads to positive brand perception,” Simon said. Conversely, companies that continuously change terms of service, and privacy clauses are often perceived as underhanded, and brand perception can suffer.”

Publish date: April 28, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT