Privacy appears to be at the forefront of public opinion as TRUSTe released their annual Consumer Confidence Index. 92% of the people surveyed listed privacy as a major concern when browsing the Internet. This is a 42% increase from 2014. Individuals surveyed considered online privacy more important than national security.
With almost daily news reports surrounding hacking and the latest security breach at the Anthem insurance company, it is no surprise that this issue is a hot topic. The survey further pointed out that consumers were most concerned about the collection and sharing of personal data. This concern has experts concerned about negative affects on consumer behavior.
The loss of trust between a corporation and the public was also highlighted in the survey.
“Americans who are concerned about their privacy have modified their online behavior in the last year meaning less data, fewer clicks and lost sales.” said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe.
When consumers modify their behavior, they interact less with online media and are less likely to make purchases or products and services.
Although the TRUSTe report highlights an increase in public concern over the issue of privacy, this issue is not new. Most corporations have watched from the sidelines as hackers continue to carry out more elaborate attacks. They live in a state of denial. This denial is dangerous to corporate and the consumer. Instead of sitting on the sidelines it is time for corporations to be proactive in taking steps to protect online data. Waiting for government intervention and new FCC guidelines will not be sufficient in solving the problem.
The growing concern about privacy should be noted for public relations professionals. Protecting privacy is often part of our jobs. We should care about both our clients and the public. Ensuring transparency is one of the ways we can address the public’s concern about personal data collection. Transparency is implied by several of the PRSA professional values and provisions of the Code of Ethics. Periodically informing the public about how an organization uses personal data can help calm concerns about privacy and in turn strengthen our relations and foster good will.
Where should a corporation begin? Measuring consumer knowledge of security practices is a good place to start. The TRUSTe survey revealed the following information about consumers:
- 57 percent have not clicked on an online ad
- 51 percent withheld some personal information they were asked for
- 35 percent have not downloaded an app/product
- 25 percent stopped an online transaction before completing it
- 9 percent deleted an online account
The results suggest that consumers have a basic, but limited knowledge of security practices. Although they may engage is some basic security measures (i.e., deleting cookies), it is hard to determine the frequency of these practices. Your consumers might have different practices.PR professionals collect this information and then assist in providing basic and advanced information about online security and best practices.
Regardless of the industry, basic security practices, such as the ones suggested on the TRUSTe website can provide a great resource for developing internal communication policies.
Does your organization encourage any security practices? Are your customers concerned about the safety of their data? Leave a comment below.