Online trust has fallen to its lowest point in three years, with only 55 per cent of British internet users saying they trust companies with their personal data, a survey has revealed.
The latest edition of the annual TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index shows that consumer online privacy concerns continue to grow, with six in ten internet users (60 per cent) more concerned about their privacy online than they were one year ago. 89 per cent of those interviewed said they avoid companies altogether who they believe do not protect their privacy.
Despite the recent media headlines about government surveillance programmes such as NSA's PRISM, of the British internet users whose concerns have increased in this survey, three times as many were concerned about companies sharing their personal information with other companies (60 per cent) than with the notion of governments monitoring their activity (20 per cent).
When those more concerned about their privacy online were asked what had contributed most to this feeling, 60 per cent highlighted companies sharing their personal information with other companies, while 54 per cent were concerned about companies tracking their online behaviour to target them with ads and content. In comparison, only 20 per cent cited media coverage of government surveillance programmes as a reason for their increased concern.
In addition, 91 per cent of respondents said they are less likely to click on online advertisements; 78 per cent avoid using smartphone apps that they believe do not protect their privacy; 64 per cent are less likely to enable location tracking on their smartphone; and 78 per cent are more likely to check websites and apps for a privacy certification or seal.
Ken Parnham, European Managing Director of TRUSTe, commented, "It is a wake-up call for businesses that commercial data collection and sharing, rather than government activity, is the main driver of increased online privacy concerns.
"Lack of trust can starve businesses of valuable data and sales, restricting the lifeblood of the digital economy as people are less likely to click on ads, use apps or enable location tracking on their smartphones. These findings show that success is no longer just about innovation, companies need to take decisive action to address online privacy concerns to stay ahead of the competition, minimise risk and build online trust."
The TRUSTe 2014 GB Consumer Confidence Privacy Research, was conducted online by Ipsos MORI, with 2,011 British internet users from the 13-18 December, 2013. The research was released to coincide with Data Privacy Day #DPD14, and will be presented during the first 2014 Powering Trust Speaker Series event at The Hospital Club in London. Comparable research was also conducted in the US.