A report from the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance Consumer Privacy Index found that Americans worry more about their data privacy than losing their main source of income. The responses to the survey showed that data privacy worries held an 11 percent lead over worries of income loss.
What the survey results mean
The study’s release fell on Data Privacy Day (January 28), which is observed to raise awareness of the meaning and best practices of data privacy. However, the survey demonstrated a glaring disparity between the level of concern and the level of knowledge from the respondents.
“There is a high level of concern about how data is being protected, but there is a big disconnect in there too.” Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA, told CBS News. “Less than a third of those people who are worried about data privacy reported that they understood how companies can share their personal information — only 31 percent.”
The report also showed that only 43 percent of respondents are aware they can turn off location tracking. While these numbers raise their own concerns, Kaiser said that this presents an opportunity for the business community to engage with customers on these issues. Companies that don’t take these steps reap the consequences in customer loss. The study found that privacy concerns have a significant effect on consumers’ perspectives, reporting that 89 percent avoid companies they don’t believe will protect their privacy and 74 percent have limited their activity online in the past year due to these issues.
Chris Babel, the CEO of TRUSTe, told CBS News that it’s often difficult for businesses to amend their data collecting policies because the meaning of “privacy” can be strikingly different depending on who you’re talking to. Babel suggested that companies be as transparent as possible with what they do. He also recommended that businesses create settings that give the consumer agency in how they use the service or product, meaning adjustable settings based on the individual user’s privacy comfort level. Babel also said that companies should strive to write their privacy policies in layman’s terms, so that this information can be more accessible to the general public.
What consumers can do
While the survey suggested that businesses need to improve their own data privacy measures, some of that responsibility also falls on the shoulders of consumers. Only 16 percent of the survey respondents said they have read privacy policies for the services they use. The survey also found that just 43 percent were aware they could change the privacy settings on their social media accounts while a mere 24 percent have actually adjusted their settings.
For these reasons, the NCSA and Data Privacy Day have become increasingly necessary to ensure security. After a number of data breaches in 2015 compromised sensitive, personal information of unwitting consumers, many are looking at data privacy as a key player in protection against identity theft and other forms of fraud.
In the interest of your personal security, education on data privacy is essential. While those in the business community work to provide a more transparent data experience for its customers, you can quell some of your concerns by investing in Privacy Now. This tool can assess your risk profile, monitor active threats, and help you manage those risks through alerts and a customized dashboard.