Data privacy

Companies need to take privacy concerns seriously—or risk losing users

More than one-third of polled consumers have changed service providers over data privacy concerns.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Turns out privacy is important. Who knew? Well, consumers, for one.

That’s the main takeaway from a new consumer privacy preferences survey conducted by communications firm Cisco. Polling 2,600 people from 12 countries, including the US, UK, Brazil, and Japan, Cisco found that consumers supported transparency around privacy from companies by a wide margin, and would not trust their data to firms they did not trust.

Users are fed up with opaque terms of service and are asserting their rights. For IT departments and staff at companies that have not published their policies and lack transparency, the challenges of managing consumer concerns are clear: Companies that don’t adapt to the times are going to be left behind.

“Companies have to do their part, they have to publish their policies, they need to be transparent,” Robert Waitman, Cisco’s director of privacy, told IT Brew. “They need to protect the data the way they say they’re going to do and not go outside that.”

Criteria for user retention. A majority of respondents (51%) said local or national governments should step in on managing data regulations, with a further 19% saying the responsibility should be on individuals. Around one-fifth (21%) think those decisions should be in the hands of the private companies holding the data.

“Privacy is increasingly a criteria users look at when choosing providers—this is not surprising and will likely continue to increase,” Karen Gullo, an analyst and senior media relations specialist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told IT Brew in an email. “Hopefully, that will drive providers to see that robust privacy policies can give them a competitive advantage.”

Today’s consumer is more confident and willing to take action to protect their privacy, to the extent that their decisions can affect a company’s bottom line.

“Certainly, the ones that know about the laws …feel more confident that they have an ability to at least put in some controls,” Waitman said. “It;s not perfect, but they feel like they’re much more in control than they were even a few years ago.”

Notably, 37%—more than one in three respondents—switched providers over these concerns. That number stands out to Waitman. A lot of people say they care about privacy, but seeing one in three actually take action on it was revealing, he said.

“It’s not just talk, they’ve actually done it,” he told IT Brew. “They’re not all online companies—there’s some brick-and-mortar companies, it’s relationships that often were significant in nature, that they decided to stop or to change in a dramatic way, and that’s a big step.”—EH

Do you work in IT or have information about your IT department you want to share? Email [email protected] or DM @EoinHiggins_ on Twitter.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming, IT Brew delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.