How Concerned Are Consumers Really When It Comes to Data Privacy?

5 min readAug 28, 2018

Snap a photo, swipe through the filters for the perfect one, and hit publish. Rinse and repeat.

Sharing stuff online has become second nature for people today. In fact, things have really snowballed in the last couple of years. According to an IBM Marketing Cloud study, 90% of all the dataonline has been created since 2016.

Here’s something else that’ll blow your mind: in the last three years alone, there has been a 42% increase in the number of people using the internet.

Imagine all those people snapping, filtering, uploading, sharing, and publishing. That’s a mind-boggling amount of data put out each and every day. The scary part is the majority of these people don’t realize they are essentially data factories, pumping out numbing amounts of information each minute.

Or maybe they do and they just don’t care.

You see, according to recent research, 75% of internet users aren’t bothered about the data they share with companies — but there’s a catch. While they don’t necessarily mind handing over their personal details, they do want something in exchange, whether it’s a reward or some kind of value in return.

This means that things are changing (and not just because more people than ever are rinsing and repeating the snap, filter, share system). It means that consumers are aware and understand the sensitive nature of data exchange, and are willing participants in the “game”.

In the same research, over half of internet users admit that data exchange in this way is absolutely essential for society to keep ticking along smoothly. What it boils down to is this: people understand the role they play, but they want the other side to be transparent.

And, with 88% of consumers claiming transparency is the key to trust, it might be time for the online world to sit up and listen.

But, while the majority of consumers are seemingly happy to give their data in exchange for something (how many times have you clicked on an “I Agree” button just to get to the next page without actually reading what you’re agreeing to?), there are still plenty who are concerned about what happens with their data once they’ve given it up.


In a report from the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), more Americans are concerned about their data privacy than they are about losing their main source of income — whether that says something about the US economy is a different story entirely, but we’ll stick with the data privacy concerns for now.

The report shows that worries over online privacy came in at 11% higher than the loss of personal income.

This could be because there has been a lot of news about data privacy recently. Laws have changed all over the world, and consumers are now more aware than ever of who has access to their data. Add to that the amount we’re encouraged to share online just to “fit in”, and it makes sense that we’re starting to question what happens to our personal details.

What Does this Mean for the Future of the Internet?

It’s likely that consumer concerns over data privacy will deepen. Sure, there’s a certain pull to giving away seemingly non-committal parts of ourselves like our email addresses for something that’s valuable, but where will it end?

Take the Internet of Things (IoT) that has hit the ground running in the last couple of years. This movement is often referred to as the “Internet of Me” because the vast majority of devices run on personal information. They are individual, digital extensions of ourselves.

The information collected by IoT devices — which include wearables and smart home devices like Alexa — is used to personalize experiences. It kind of sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel set well in the realms of the future, but in actual fact consumers are eager to personalize their experiences in most parts of their lives.


Because we’re busy.

There are still the same number of hours in a day that there have always been, but somehow it feels like less. We have more emails to reply to, more places to be, and the constant state of being connected means we can’t wait a day or more to communicate with someone or wait and see how something pans out.

Personalization cuts down on the time we spend researching, browsing, and interacting with things that aren’t relevant to us as individuals. This is so true, in fact, that 63% of Millennials and 58% of GenX consumers are more than happy to share their data with companies to get personalized offers and information.

Let’s use a fitness tracker as an example. When you first set it up, you have to input some personal information, like your weight, height, sex, and desired outcome. Based on this, the device will then put together a customized plan to help you reach that desired outcome, taking into account the personal details you handed over without a second thought.

The thing is, consumers want fast results and they want stuff that’s highly relevant so their time isn’t wasted. This is perhaps the root of why people don’t mind handing over their data, as long as they get something in return — and that “something” tends to be time.

The fitness tracker is just one example of a device that relies on people willingly handing over their data. When it comes to things like Alexa, every time you make a request it gets logged and filed away for future use so the smart device can make better suggestions for you personally in the future.

So yes, research shows that people are concerned about their data and where it goes, but not quite enough to stop handing it over entirely.

For most people, there is something that’s far more valuable than an email address or their household income, and that’s time; something we all have absolutely no control over but will do anything we can to get some kind of grasp on.

But is the tradeoff worth it or should we be more hesitant to give up our data?

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Written by: Lizzie Davey




We're AXEL, asking the hard questions on who's doing what with YOUR data.