EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) today released the findings of the EMC Privacy Index, a global study assessing consumer attitudes of online privacy. Spanning 15 countries and 15,000 consumers, the study reveals consumers hold viewpoints on privacy that vary widely by geography and the type of activity engaged in while online.
The long-standing debate over how much visibility governments and businesses should have regarding people’s private activities, communications and behaviors has continued into the online world. The EMC Privacy Index explores how consumers worldwide view their online privacy rights and measures willingness to forfeit the benefits and conveniences of the connected world for the assurances of privacy.
Read through the complete findings from the EMC Privacy Index, including rankings by country.
The conclusion? People want benefits of technology without sacrificing privacy. Three privacy paradoxes emerged, each with powerful implications for consumers, businesses and technology providers:
- “We Want it All” Paradox: Consumers say they want all conveniences and benefits of digital technology, yet say they are unwilling to trade privacy to get them
- “Take No Action” Paradox: Although privacy risks directly impact many consumers, most say they take virtually no special action to protect their privacy – instead placing the onus on those handling their information such as government and businesses
- “Social Sharing” Paradox: Users of social media sites claim they value privacy, yet they say they freely share large quantities of personal data – despite expressing a lack of confidence and trust in those institutions to protect that information
The EMC Privacy Index confirms people behave differently depending on the type of activity, which can be categorized with a number of online personas (or “Me’s”), each with different attitudes towards privacy. The six personas evaluated include:
- Social Me – interaction with social media sites, email programs, text/SMS and other communications services
- Financial Me – interaction with banks and other financial institutions
- Citizen Me – interaction with government institutions
- Medical Me – interaction with doctors, medical institutions and health insurers
- Employee Me – interaction with employment-related systems and Web sites
- Consumer Me – interaction with online stores
Viewpoints on privacy vary wildly by persona. For instance, viewed through the lense of the citizen persona respondents showed the greatest willingness to forfeit privacy – to gain protection or for easier and more efficient online access to government benefits. Meanwhile, their “social” persona claims to be the least willing to give up privacy for greater social connectedness.
The study is instructive for consumers, businesses and technology providers.
- For consumers it reinforces the need to increase their awareness of privacy issues and to take personal action to protect their own privacy. Click here to view EMC’s recommendations on steps to improve consumer privacy.
- For businesses the imperative is to understand the range of customer perception. Winners and losers will be determined by those businesses that demonstrate the most relevant and practical privacy practices for their customers. The more evident it is that a business is committed to privacy protection the more likely it will attract and increase levels of consumer engagement.
- Critical to helping businesses deliver on their commitment to privacy protection are technology providers, which need to find ways to improve privacy across their offerings without compromising user experience, performance or capability.
“We Want It All” Paradox
Irrespective of persona and type of benefit, people have very little willingness to trade privacy for the benefits of digital technology:
91% of respondents value the benefit of “easier access to information and knowledge” that digital technology affords; Only 27% say they are willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease online.
- 85% of respondents value “the use of digital technology for protection from terrorist and/or criminal activity; however, only 54% say they are willing to trade some of their privacy for this protection
Respondents over the age of 55 across a sampling of countries say they are less willing to trade privacy for convenience and desire more control over their personal data
“Take No Action” Paradox
More than half of all respondents reported that they have experienced a data breach (email account hacked; mobile device lost or stolen; social media account hacked; and more.) Many are not taking measures to protect themselves:
- 62% don’t change passwords regularly
- 4 out of 10 don’t customize privacy settings on social networks
- 39% don’t use password-protection on mobile devices
- Respondents listed businesses using, selling or trading personal data for financial gain (51%) and the lack of government attention (31%) among the top risks to the future of privacy. Similarly, “a lack of personal oversight and attention from regular people like me” was ranked very low (11%)
- A sampling of people over the age of 55 report they are much less likely to password protect their mobile devices or change the privacy settings on their social networks
“Social Sharing” Paradox
Use of social media sites continues to explode despite:
- Respondents expecting that their privacy on social media will be most difficult to maintain in the next five years
- A belief among consumers that the skills and ethics of institutions to protect the privacy of personal data on social media sites are low;
- Just 51% claim to have confidence in the skills of these providers to protect personal data, and just 39% claim to have confidence in those organizations’ ethics
- The vast majority of consumers (84%) claim they don’t like anyone knowing anything about them or their habits unless they make a decision themselves to share that information
- A sampling of respondents over the age of 65 are substantially more concerned about their privacy, citing the least willingness to let other people know about their online habits
A Stark Global Privacy Outlook
- The confidence people have in their levels of privacy is degrading over time
Compared to a year ago, 59% of global respondents feel they have less privacy now
Brazil and the United States reported the highest percentage of respondents who feel they have less privacy now, with 71% and 70% respectively
- France is the only country with a majority (56%) that disagrees with the statement that they have less privacy now than they did a year ago
- A large majority of respondents (81%) expect privacy will decrease in the next five years
These findings suggest consumers are likely to engage in more online activities with institutions that demonstrate greater privacy protection. This presents real opportunities that business and governments must not ignore
“The South African market demonstrates similar online behaviour, with consumers being highly active online and shopping, banking, searching and social networking leading online activity in the country. Like their global counterparts, South Africans readily use technologies that reveal personal data, but take few actions to protect their privacy.
“The unprecedented potential of Cloud and Big Data to drive commerce and societal advancement rests on a foundation of trust. Individuals need to know that their data not only is secure, but that its privacy is protected. The Privacy Index reveals a global divergence of views around these critical issues of our time, and a warning call that responsibility for transparency, fairness, safe online behaviour and trustworthy use of personal data must be shared by business, governments and individuals alike.”
Servaas Venter, Country Manager, EMC Southern Africa
“The data captured in the EMC Privacy Index gives a fascinating view into the attitudes of global consumers and validates a fundamental point – respecting privacy and safeguarding data is a core value that should be shared by businesses, governments and individuals to enable a more trusted ecosystem. If organizations are transparent and accountable for their information management practices, individuals will be able to better manage their digital lives consistent with how they want to share information about themselves.”
Michael Kaiser, Executive Director, National Cyber Security Alliance