Privacy in 2023: Evolving Consumer Privacy and Education to Drive Measurable Shifts in Accountability and Action

June 8, 2023
·
5 min
deleteme

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In today’s world of instant access and oversharing where new technologies like AI and data breaches dominate the headlines, the role of privacy in everyday life is steadily taking center stage. Yet, there is much speculation and many unknowns driving these conversations. 

So with a deep-seated passion for the topic and a desire to drive positive change for consumers, Cloaked set out to get a pulse on what privacy means to Americans and what is influencing their actions. With Propeller Insights, we fielded a 2,000-person survey to gain firsthand insights on its significance in our lives. 

What we found was both eye-opening and meaningful. It’s true that privacy is on everyone’s mind. Regardless of gender, age or location, 92% of respondents shared that they think privacy is important or very important and 64% of individuals think about privacy often or always. In fact, 94% of respondents said society should pay more attention to privacy.

And now we also know the extent to which privacy is personal and the onus to which individuals are holding themselves accountable to maintain their privacy. Key findings include: 

  1. The concept of privacy is personal.

For many, privacy has been deemed an ambiguous term with a range of meanings and purposes. What has surfaced through the ambiguity though is the personal nature of privacy.  

47% of respondents defined privacy with an inherent need for personal control and security, stating it is “the ability to do what I want and be confident in knowing my actions, communications and data will not be revealed or shared.” 

And 83% of respondents stated that they believe privacy impacts them personally primarily due to factors, such as “what has happened to me” (21%), “who I am” (19%) or because of “how I feel” (17%). 

  1. Individuals hold themselves most accountable to their own privacy. 

Today, businesses, government and more play a critical role in maintaining security and privacy policies to serve consumers’ best interests. Yet an overwhelming majority of individuals blame themselves when things go wrong.

88% of respondents said that they are most responsible for protecting their personal information today, with 81% of respondents believing that it is still their responsibility to protect their data even after it has been shared with an outside party. 

  1. Most individuals believe they have control over their privacy but only a few trust others with it.

Of all respondents, 73% believe they have more or total control over their privacy compared to any other individuals or entities and 62% of individuals trust themselves to always protect their personal information and their partners second (26%), followed by healthcare providers (21%) and financial institutions (19%). 

While 73% of individuals rarely or never trust strangers to protect their data, trust strengthens incrementally with organizations where more interactions take place or potential familiarity exists. For example, individuals rarely or never trust favorite brands (53%), social media companies (47%), work (43%), big tech (38%) and government (37%) to protect their personal information.

  1. Sharing information is perceived as a high-risk action. 

When asked what would make individuals comfortable sharing personal information, 48% of people said they’d be willing to share when “there’s little risk involved.” While respondents had different definitions of “risk,” the possibility of losing or being exposed to harm were most frequently expressed.

Furthermore, red flags arise most frequently around perceived risk when individuals believe they are being asked for unnecessary information (51%) or when it seems too personal (47%). 

In regards to personal information, 70% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to share their name with a person or business that they’re interacting with for the first time. In contrast, only 11% would be open to sharing their LinkedIn information, and 12% to sharing their social security number.

  1. Consumers currently take basic actions to protect their privacy.

87% of respondents confirmed that they have taken some form of action to protect their privacy with top moves being “turned on privacy settings” (55%), “chosen not to share information” (54%) or “not responded to an email or text” (50%). 

While the sum of the actions align with the increased awareness of personal privacy, the methods of action do not indicate a deeper understanding of how to protect it. Pre-set privacy controls built into devices and software are a good place to start, but they rarely do enough to prevent the unnecessary sharing of consumer data. 

More problematic is the sense of hiding that individuals are embracing as a way to keep their information private. More often than not, individuals are simply choosing not to share over trusting that the information they share will be kept secure. 

In the end, Individuals want to take more action and desire a clear way to gauge the impact of the privacy actions they take. 49% of individuals believe taking basic steps to protect their privacy is working because it “makes them feel better,” while 25% percent of people don’t know if the actions they are taking actually work at all. 

Yet, 50% of respondents said that they would take more action to protect their privacy if they had better tools, and 44% of individuals would do more if they had a better understanding of how their information is used.

The personal motivation for taking action is a great first step to individuals doing more to protect their personal information. The missing pieces are the awareness of what tools are available, easy ways to quantify success, and an understanding of what the world looks like without privacy anxiety.

TURNING INSIGHTS INTO ACTION

These survey results demonstrate that many people are driven by fear and exacerbated by a lack of understanding about what happens to their data once it is shared. 

Individuals shouldn’t have to bear the burden of responsibility on their own when it comes to privacy, nor should they feel such discomfort when trying to do something about it. 

While the growth rate for our digital world is outpacing the ability to properly educate consumers on their right to privacy at every level, we now understand even better the role we – and the industry at large – have to play in educating and advocating for consumers so that we can shift the weight of responsibility from one to many and help everyone experience the comfort of real control. 

It starts with education. 

Understanding why people or organizations are asking for your data and what happens to it after it is shared are critical first steps to taking control of your personal information and learning how to take action.

  • Stay alerted to data breaches through free services. Many organizations allow people to sign up for identity theft alerts that notify them in the event of a relevant data breach. You can also visit sites like “Have I been Pwned” to check if your personal data has been exposed. Stay informed in a proactive manner.

  • Bookmark resources that share the most up-to-date privacy and security information. Sites like The Federal Trade Commission have sections dedicated to your personal privacy and offer updates around ongoing threats and steps you can take to keep your personal information safe.

  • Take the time to read policies and publications on the use of data for both digital marketing and legal purposes. Data collection methods (cookies, pixels, etc.) follow your online activity and monitor the actions you take. This is why you see relevant ads and may receive other forms of communication after you share some personal information online. While personalization of the online experience is important, it should not be at the expense of your personal data. You have the right to control this.

  • Know that you can request that your data be deleted. While this is not a surefire way to guarantee that your data is not being kept and shared, it can still have an impact on the volume of data available. There are online forms, contact information, and procedures that will help you understand how to request the deletion of your personally identifiable information. Stay up-to-date with your rights to deletion in your state.

In a typical situation without data protections or clear privacy best practices in place, as soon as you share personal information with another entity you lose control of it. Your data is collected and disseminated with the purpose of turning a profit. 

Here’s what you can do to take control of your privacy: 

  • Understand levels of commitment to your privacy. Start by taking the time to read through privacy policies. Look at how companies collect, store, and use marketing data. Also, check out their third party affiliations. Just because a company doesn’t use your data directly doesn’t mean that third parties they are working with don’t.

  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions. All trustworthy companies will provide you with some form of contact information. If there are any questions not answered in the privacy policy, or something you’d like more direct information on, reach out to them and ask. As long as it is not proprietary information, they should have no issue sharing it with you. Any company that is not forthcoming with information on how they are interacting with your personal data is a company you may want to avoid.

  • Do more than the basics. Turning on privacy settings or not sharing are the most basic steps you can take. However, there are other actions that will give you more control over what happens to your data. Try using privacy apps such as Virtual Private Networks, identity generators, anonymized email services, and private browsers to add additional layers of protection.

  • Don’t share unnecessary data. Data brokers collect excessive amounts of information with the intent to sell it or sell access to it. To minimize the personally identifiable information available on you, only ever share exactly what is needed to complete the desired action. Make sure to opt-out of additional data collection and sharing, and adjust your cookie settings to minimize tracking.

It continues with advocacy.

Even though individuals feel we are most responsible for protecting our personal information, there are plenty of players who have a hand in keeping our data safe. As innovators, business owners and industry leaders, we must look out for consumers’ best interests. Here are a few steps to jumpstart your advocacy efforts:

  • Design privacy into your organization. Build privacy best practices into your organization from the ground up, hiring team members who share your views on data policies and dedicating resources to a privacy-first approach. 

  • Work with less to deliver more. Consider what type of data you need from individuals to deliver your product or service in a meaningful way and minimize the data points you ask of them – online and in person.

  • Focus on behavior. Instead of focusing on building user profiles, get to the heart of the matter by understanding what behavioral profile you can build to minimize unnecessary information gathering. 

  • Protect what data you have. Ensure you have proper security and data protocols in place to ensure the data you hold is safe from security breaches or nefarious characters.

  • Create digestible data privacy policies. Make it easy for people to understand what you’re collecting (if anything) and how you’re using it via policies that are easy to find and understand. 

  • Educate at every opportunity. Privacy is blurry and individuals are hungry to better understand how privacy works – find ways to share valuable information that will help make more informed decisions when it comes to protecting personal information.

Want to know more? Reach out to [email protected].

About the Cloaked 2023 Privacy Survey

A national online survey of 2,000 general consumers, was conducted by Propeller Insights between February 4 and February 10, 2023. Respondents opted into an online database, from there, they were targeted based on demographics. To further confirm qualifications, respondents were asked to verify their information in the survey itself, self-identifying qualifications, with the maximum margin of sampling error was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

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