Consumer Confidence in Online Privacy Hits 3-Year Low

Most afraid of businesses, not government

The more consumers learn about how businesses track them online, the more worried they are about protecting their online privacy. In fact, consumer online trust has hit a three-year low, according to new data from Truste, a global data privacy management company.

A high percentage of Internet users—74 percent—said they were more concerned about their privacy this year than a year ago. 

Surprisingly, when asked what caused the heightened concern, only 38 percent pointed to the reports of government surveillance, while 58 percent said it was businesses sharing their personal information with other companies.

Fewer consumers trust businesses with their data, down to 55 percent from 57 percent last year and 59 percent in 2012.

Due to privacy concerns, consumers are less likely to click on an online ad (83 percent), use an app they don't trust (80 percent), or enable location tracking (74 percent). They are more likely to check for a privacy certification or seal before sharing personal information online.

The message to businesses, said Dave Deasy, Truste's vp of marketing, is that privacy issues can no longer be relegated to the lawyers and small print in privacy policies. "It's a big brand and marketing issue," Deasy said. "If users don't trust the site, the brand will suffer significant consequences down the road.

The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive and was based on responses from more than 2,000 adult consumers.