Many private citizens are increasingly worried that businesses and regulators are not doing enough to protect the safety of their data online.
Only 26% of those surveyed feel that businesses are sufficiently transparent in how they use personal data, while a definite majority -- 75% -- describe regulation preventing misuse of such information as "weak," according to a new global study by London-based Intelligence Unit of The Economist magazine.
While 34% of respondents told researchers they are more willing to share basic personal information online now than they were three years ago, a full 90% report they are concerned that such information might be hacked and used to steal their money.
Meanwhile, 66% of respondents report that they sometimes reject products or services because of concerns about the security of their personal data. Moreover, very few consumers are confident their data is safe in the hands of social networks and online retailers.
[ Where do you draw the line when it comes to privacy at work? Read Monitoring Vs. Spying: Are Employers Going Too Far? ]
The study's findings have significant implications for how businesses collect and use consumer data, according to its authors. Editorial director Denis McCauley said, "Companies that earn the right to use consumer data, and do so fairly, could gain a significant competitive edge in the long-term. Building consumer relationships based on trust will help companies gain access to more personal data, and help them to outperform competitors."
The study also draws out some intriguing differences between users in the U.S. and Europe on personal data privacy concerns. For example, while users in both geographies have "similar levels of unease," U.S. users are more reluctant to share information, with 38% saying they're less likely to share personal data now than they were three years ago, compared to just 20% of Europeans. Accordingly, Europeans are more frequent online shoppers, with 22% shopping online at least once a week compared to just 5% of U.S. respondents.
Conducted in January and February 2013, the study surveyed 758 adult Internet users, the vast majority of whom use the Internet daily. Of this sample, 32% were based in Western Europe, 30% in the Asia-Pacific region, 20% in North America and the remainder from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. The group also conducted a number of in-depth interviews with experts and leaders from business, government and NGOs.
The research was commissioned by data breach solutions vendor Beazley.
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