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Pew Sheds Light on Privacy Concerns

Posted on 11.12.2014

A new study from Pew Research is shedding light on the privacy concerns of consumers, revealing that 91 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies.

The study, dubbed Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era, also found that the majority of respondents who use social media (80 percent) are concerned about third parties like advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share. And, despite many survey respondents noting concerns over the government having the ability to access their personal information without their knowledge, 64 percent of the respondents believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers.

Additional insights reveal that consumers are skeptical about the benefits of personal data sharing. For instance, 61 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access that have to my personal data.” Conversely, the study found that 55 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.”

It is also important to note that the study found a significant lack of confidence among consumers when it comes to the security of common communications channels. For example, 81 percent of respondents feel not very or not at all secure using social media sites when they want to share private information with another trusted person or organization, while 68 percent feel insecure using chat or instant messages to share private information. Comparatively, 58 percent of respondents feel insecure sending private information via text message, 57 percent feel insecure sending private information via email and 46 percent feel not very or not at all secure when it comes to using their cell phone to call someone and share private information.

According to Pew’s research, consumers’ lack of confidence in security seems to correlate with how much they have heard about government surveillance programs. Moreover, just 24 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that it is easy to be anonymous when they are online. Pew’s study also touches on a variety of other security issues, such as the type of information consumers consider sensitive and the number of consumers that monitor their reputation online. The bottom line, however, seems to be that consumers are more skeptical than ever when it comes to the security of their private information, which means that brands should do everything they can to increase consumer confidence – especially with Black Friday and Cyber Monday being just around the corner.

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