More consumers are concerned about their privacy online than a year ago

Consumers’ online privacy concerns grow while their trust in online businesses declines from last year, according to a new report.

Madeline C. Andre

47% of U.S. Internet users say they are concerned about companies tracking their online behavior to target them with ads and content, according to a new report from TRUSTe. And 89% of those consumers say they avoid doing business with companies they do not believe protect their privacy. 

TRUSTe, which sells data privacy management services, based its findings on market research firm Harris Interactive Inc.’s online survey of 2,019 U.S. adults that took place between Dec. 11 and 13. That was before Target Corp., No. 18 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide, announced a major data breach involving payment card and other information involving up to 110 million consumers. The survey took place amid ongoing coverage of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program.

The report, “TRUSTe 2014 U.S. Consumer Confidence Privacy Report,” found that 92% of U.S. Internet users say they worry about their privacy online, up from 89% in January 2013. (There were no comparative figures for the 47% and 89% figures above.) 55% of respondents say they trust most businesses with their personal information online, down from 57%. 

Of the 92% of Internet users who worry about online privacy, 58% say they are concerned about businesses sharing their personal information with other companies. 38% listed media coverage about the government’s surveillance programs as a reason for their concerns. Additionally, 74% of Internet users say they are more worried about online privacy than they were a year ago.

“These findings send a clear signal that business data collection, not government activity, is the main driver for increased privacy concerns," said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe. "While some businesses are taking steps today to address privacy concerns, many are not, and the bar is rising."

To manage their privacy, 83% of Internet users say they are less likely to click on an online ad than a year ago, 80% of those with smartphones avoid using apps they believe don’t protect their privacy and 74% are less likely to enable location tracking on their smartphone than a year ago.  76% are also more likely to look for privacy certifications and seals on web sites than a year ago, which is often seen as an indicator of a safe site. Part of TRUSTe’s business is generated via sales of its TRUSTe seal, which indicates a web site complies with the vendor’s own privacy requirements.


e-payments and security, online privacy, smartphones, targeted advertising, TRUSTe