9 in 10 Americans Concerned About Online Privacy

February 17, 2012

truste-online-privacy-concerns-feb-2012.jpgConsumer concern for online privacy is at a significantly high level, according to the Q1 2012 TRUSTe Privacy Index, which shows that 90% of US adults worry about their privacy online. Although a plurality (46%) of survey respondents indicate the frequency of their online privacy worries to be just occasional, 23% say they always worry about their privacy online, with a further 21% saying they frequently worry. Southerners, 45-54-year-olds, and divorcees are those most likely to frequently or always worry about their privacy.

Consumers may have reason to worry: according to a paper submitted by a team of mathematicians to an August 2011 cryptography conference, 4 of every 1,000 public keys protecting webmail, online banking, and other online services provide no cryptographic security, as reported by Ars Technica in February 2012. Ars Technica also reported that a separate group of researchers said they had been able to remotely compromise about 0.4% of the public keys used for SSL web site security. However, those researchers, at Freedom to Tinker, cautioned that the problem affected various embedded devices, rather than web servers, and should not result in a decrease in confidence regarding e-commerce security.

Mistrust is Also High

Meanwhile, according to the TRUSTe survey results, 41% of adults do not trust businesses with their personal information, while half only somewhat agree with the statement that they trust most companies with their personal information online. According to an October 2011 survey from LoyaltyOne, US and Canadian consumers display a high degree of uncertainty about sharing their personal data with companies. 88% of respondents to that survey said they feel companies are primarily collecting personal information for their own benefit, and 85% were often concerned about how much of their personal information is held by others.

Elderly Avoid Businesses That Ignore Privacy

The TRUSTe survey also shows that most all (95%) US adults believe businesses have a responsibility to protect their privacy online, and that consumers’ privacy concerns can have a major business impact. 93% of respondents aged over 55 said they avoid doing business with companies who they do not believe protect their privacy online. Adults aged 45-54 (91%) and 35-44 (87%) also display a high aversion to companies they perceive as not protecting their privacy, although 18-34-year-olds (82%) appear relatively less likely to avoid those companies.

Overall, 53% of respondents strongly agreed that they avoid doing business with companies they do not believe protect their privacy online, while a further 35% somewhat agreed with that sentiment.

Businesses Suffer Online, Too

Consumers are not the only ones worried about privacy and fraud when it comes to online commerce, though. According to a report [download page] released in January 2012 by CyberSource, in 2011, merchants reported losing an average of 1% of total online revenue to fraud, up slightly from 0.9% in 2010, though down markedly from an average of 3.2% a decade earlier. In 2011, the order rejection rate increased, as it has since 2009. Merchants reported rejecting an average of 2.8% of orders due to suspicion of payment fraud.

About the Data: The TRUSTe survey was conducted online within the US by Harris Interactive from January 17-19 among 2,415 adults ages 18 and older.

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