TRUSTe Survey Shows 90 Percent of Adults Worry About Online Privacy

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ADOTAS – Online privacy management solutions provider TRUSTe released the first Consumer Confidence Edition of its TRUSTe Privacy Index Series today. It’s meant to be a gauge (and in fact, the company presented the results of the study along with graphics that resembled analog gauges) of the privacy concerns of adult U.S. internet users and the impact of those concerns on businesses, and according to TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel in a recent phone conversation, “It’s something we want to do on a quarterly basis.”

The new online study, conducted for TRUSTe in January by Harris Interactive, shows 90 percent of online adults worry about their online privacy (be it sometimes, frequently or often — only 10 percent said they never worry about it), 41 percent degree don’t trust most companies with their personal information online, and 88 percent said that to some degree or another, they avoid doing business online with companies who they suspect don’t protect users’ privacy.

Babel said that with all the discussion about how younger people are less fastidious in or less concerned with their online privacy, “I was expecting a skew” across age demographics in the results. And yet, he said, looking at how people of various ages think about and act regarding privacy issues, “the reality was that it was pretty balanced. It’s pretty flatlined.” Indeed, the results showed that while the percentage of respondents who said they avoid businesses that aren’t attentive to privacy does climb up with each progressively older demographic, it’s a gradual climb — the 55-plus crowd checks in at 93 percent, but the 18-34 crowd registers at still substantial 82 percent.

According to Babel, it’s not enough to look at the market for a sense of how concerned consumers are about what ecommerce sites do with their personal data. “People might say, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of trust, [because] there’s a lot of ecommerce!,'” he said. But TRUSTe set out to find out what consumers think about how companies handle privacy online, how that plays into the way they interact with (and, by extension, trust) brands and retailers, and how that all affects their behavior. And Babel insists that no matter what record ecommerce gains might suggest, “consumers are very concerned.” As a result, he said, “You’ve got to step up and say, ‘Hey, I’m being clear and transparent. Second, you’ve got to give them the choice” to opt in or opt out of offers whenever possible. “Third, you’ve got to be accountable.” And, he said, while internet users may be more aware than ever, and in larger numbers, of the ramifications of sharing personal data online (and while he insisted ecommerce sites that feature TRUSTe’s “seal of approval” do see uplift), the industry is still at the beginning of monitoring itself and providing transparency. “Only 5 percent of all mobile apps have a privacy policy,” he pointed out.

Once again, TRUSTe has posted the results on its site.

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