UK consumers do not believe businesses or governments do enough to protect their data, according to Symantec’s latest State of Privacy report.
Security now ranks as high as the quality of products and customer service when consumers decide where to shop – but only 21% of UK consumers trust retailers to keep their data safe, the report said.
Consumers across Europe consider retailers and social media companies the least trustworthy with personal data, while medical institutions and banks are believed the most trustworthy.
Symantec found one third of the UK consumers polled said they provide fake information to protect their privacy online and data security represents a strong commercial driver for 89% of UK shoppers.
Businesses have an opportunity to use data protection and customer privacy as a competitive advantage, by educating and reassuring customers that data is held securely, the report said.
The Symantec survey found 49% of UK consumers are worried their data is not safe, with 59% stating they experienced a data protection issue in the past.
According to Symantec, consumer reluctance to share personal information will grow and begin to change online behaviour.
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Security concerns and e-commerce
But, despite UK consumers' concerns about security and privacy online, the study found that, while online shopping is still growing, only one in five takes the time to read terms and conditions in full before sharing their personal information; and more than three in 10 would trade in their email address for monetary benefits.
Symantec believes it a matter of time until security concerns cause reduce online activity.
This trend can be seen already, with 53% of UK consumers avoiding posting personal data online to protect their privacy.
Symantec suggests the market is near tipping point and businesses need to turn data security to their advantage by ensuring policies and procedures are robust; and that security is communicated to customers as a reason to engage with them.
According to the report, customer data security has evolved as a priority for consumers – and the sooner businesses realise this, the more they can take a competitive advantage from it.
Responsibility for data protection
The research also suggests that consumers are beginning to understand the value of their data, with 18% valuing their information at over €10,000.
The study found UK consumers divided over who should take responsibility for providing adequate data protection.
Nearly a third said it should lie with government, 28% said businesses and 40% said consumers share equal responsibility for protecting their information.
“Businesses need to be more transparent with customers, in how they are keeping data secure,” said Ilias Chantzos, senior director for Symantec government affairs in Europe.
“Security needs to be embedded into a company’s value chain, but it should also be viewed internally as a customer-winning requirement, and not just a cost.”
Consumer choice and data protection
Darren Thomson, chief technology officer for Symantec in Europe, said the IT industry has an opportunity to assist the consumer in making sensible choices around data privacy.
“The State of Privacy report shows many consumers today are considering what their data might be worth to others. Businesses should act now to demonstrate the security of personal data they hold – in turn, this will enable them to grow their business with accurate data and a loyal customer base,” Thomson said.
Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of EU cyber security agency ENISA, recommends that companies and public sector bodies review their privacy policies and create simple more effective methods of communicating these to consumers.
“We believe that terms and conditions should be more concise, easy to understand and companies should help customers take control of their data,” Helmbrecht said.