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SAS research: data security not a digital deterrent for consumers in Western Europe

May 2016 by SAS

You’d think recent data hacks and breaches, especially at government agencies and financial websites – 20 of these occurred in Western Europe in first half 2015 – would intensify public worries about data privacy and security. But no. A new study from SAS, reports just 58 percent of respondents say events like these have heightened their concerns.

The good news ends there. In this survey, 58 percent of participants report concern about what businesses do with their personal data. This is less than the global average, which reaches 62%. A whopping 33 percent of Western European (42% in France!) respondents feel no control at all over what businesses do with their information. Only 9 percent optimistically believe they have total control. Age, income and gender play a role. Those who are more affluent, female (61% vs. 56% for male) or over 40 (62% versus 53%) are more likely to take issue with how their information is used. Not surprisingly, they’re most anxious about data security for devices they actually use. Almost six in 10 consumers expressed qualms about data being collected via their smartphones (57 percent), PCs/laptops (56 percent) or tablets (55 percent). They worry far less about in-store technology and wearables.

Businesses Data Practices Disappoint

In an odd, if obvious twist, the more activities a consumer performs on line the greater the trepidation. Those reporting hesitation about what businesses do with their personal information are more likely to go online for daily tasks, especially via mobile connections, than their less fearful counterparts. They go online to:
• Search for information.
• Make purchases and reservations.
• Visit leisure and entertainment sites.
• Stay in touch with family and friends.
• Look for coupons and promotions.

One exception is mobile payment systems. Less than 30 percent of our respondents report using them. A primary reason among non-users is unease about security. In this case, data concerns appear to be influencing adoption. But consumers place responsibility for their personal information squarely with the businesses collecting it, and 65 percent of them in Western Europe feel that business using these data without their permission is a violation of privacy. Unfortunately, the survey shows a clear perception that businesses aren’t keeping their end of the agreement. Nor do consumers feel businesses are forthcoming about their policies (and changes to those policies) on use of personal data. Additionally, the perception is that companies are not doing as much as they could to keep consumer data safe: only 25 percent of respondents feet that the information that companies have about them is securely handled. A mere 20 percent for example feel that businesses are open and transparent about their policies, compared with 28 percent globally (22 percent in France).
But to be fair, consumers are also lackadaisical when it comes to protecting their privacy. Only 38 percent of respondents said that they are very likely to read the terms of agreement and privacy policies before they download new apps or software or make purchases. Most of us check the “I agree” box without ever clicking the link to the document we are consenting to.

Data is worth the reward

Even with concerns about data security, some respondents are willing to give away sensitive data if it means they will get something tangible in return - in fact, 4 percent of respondents (6 percent of males, 3 percent of females). For every discount type tested, more than half of the respondents would also provide identity information (name, email address).

Regarding marketing messages, despite expecting companies to know their preferences and understand their needs (as do 50% of the respondents in Western Europe), the majority of respondents to our survey were not keen on receiving any. However, some tactics saw greater response rate than others. For example, 38 percent of the respondents reported that they find personalized emails from companies that they do business with appealing,

“Businesses need to be digitally trustworthy in the eyes of their customers,” said Wilson Raj, Global Customer Intelligence Director at SAS. “To get there, you need C-level executives with digital expertise. Only then can they walk the line between realizing the business benefits of personalization and protecting customer data.” Trust begins in the boardroom, he continues, which makes privacy a board-level priority. “Boards need to set policies for collecting, sharing and using data, and put processes in place to ensure compliance. Not least, companies must clearly and concisely define how data stewardship impacts brand trust.”

SAS conducted an online survey among adult consumers yielding 4,368 responses from 15 countries across the globe.

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