Privacy Fundamentalism On the Rise in the UK

June 20, 2012

dma-uk-privacy-attitudes-june2012.pngSharing personal data online may have become a norm, but UK consumers have become more reluctant to share personal data in the last 15 years, not less. According to an independent study conducted by Future Foundation and published by the UK-based Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the number of “privacy fundamentalists” (who resist exchanging their details regardless of the benefits) has risen from 25% in 1997 to 31% in 2012. The fundamentalist segment has grown at the expense of the “pragmatist” segment (who share data case-by-case based on the benefits), which declined from 60% to 53%. The percentage of those “unconcerned” about data privacy has risen just slightly, from 15% to 16%. Those 1997 figures are based on a benchmark study also conducted by the Future Foundation.

Fundamentalists Are Older; More Offline Than On

Demographically, privacy fundamentalists are the reverse of pragmatists in terms of age, internet, social media use and trust in data privacy. Just 15% of respondents aged 18-24 identify themselves as fundamentalists, versus 40% among 55-64 year olds. And, just 25% of frequent social media users are fundamentalists, compared to 40% of those who never use social media. Almost 80% of this segment (thus, about 25% of UK consumers) would rather never give personal information to any organizations at all. They do not see it as essential: only 15% of pragmatists agree that “the exchange of personal information is essential for the smooth running of modern society,” versus more than 50% of pragmatists.

Less than 25% of fundamentalists understand that they can use personal information to negotiate better prices and offers with companies, versus 40% of pragmatists.

Trust Trumps Better Deals in Data Exchange

Trust in a brand, business or organization is the top factor leading UK consumers to share their personal information, with more than half of the respondents citing trust over second-place “better value,” at about one-third, and personal recommendations, at 30%. Less than 20% said that a well-known brand is an important factor in encouraging them to share their data.

Fundamentalists skewed higher in demanding trust, with 60% reporting it is the only reason they would be happy to share personal information with a company.

According to October 2011 survey findings from McCann Worldgroup, trust also plays a factor for US consumers: close to six in 10 US respondents say it is important to know exactly how their data is going to be used, selecting this as one of their to 3 important criteria when deciding to trust a brand.

Other Findings:

  • Comparing the genders, 57% of women describe themselves as privacy pragmatists, versus 48% of men.
  • 60% of respondents under 25 identify themselves as pragmatists.
  • 3 in 5 pragmatists do not agree that they receive an improved service in return for the personal data they provide to companies.
  • Individuals in the unconcerned segment skew male and under the age of 35. Some 19% of male respondents are unconcerned compared to 12% of women.
  • Social media is an important defining factor in the unconcerned segment, with just 12% being non-social media users compared to 20% of frequent users.

About the Data: Data was collected in a March 2012 online survey of 1,020 respondents, and from Future Foundation nVision research. The Future Foundation set interlocking nationally representative quotas on age and gender and had independent quotas for region and social grade, to ensure a representative sample of the UK population that did not require corrective weighting.

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