Distrust Breeds Among Consumers over Protection of Their Data

Consumers are very aware of cybersecurity threats. They remain highly skeptical that companies can ward them off or protect their personal data.

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Attitudes about data security, cybersecurity, privacy, and trust are negative across the board. Cybersecurity pros do not think their risk assessment capabilities are adequate. Now, new data show distrust among consumers who fear irresponsible handling of sensitive data and a lack of control over their personal digital information.

In the Cybersecurity Report Card appearing in Total Security Daily Advisor earlier this month, security practitioners’ confidence in their own risk assessment capabilities decreased in multiple areas. A new report from PwC and the BAV Group, Consumer Intelligence Series:, surveyed more than 2,000 Americans and showed that consumers, too, remain skeptical that companies can ward off an attack or prevent a repeat occurrence post-attack.

These concerns could lead to consumers discontinuing being a patron of a business. Companies failing to handle their customers’ data responsibly may find 87% of their customers will take their business elsewhere, according to the report.

Key findings of Consumer Intelligence Series: include:

  • Over two-thirds (69%) of consumers believe companies are vulnerable to hacks and cyberattacks.
  • Only 25% of consumers believe most companies handle their sensitive personal data responsibly.
  • Just 10% of consumers feel they have complete control over their personal information.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers believe businesses, not government, are best equipped to protect them.

For consumers, cyberattacks are personal, with 45% of respondents believing their e-mail or social media accounts will get hacked in the next year.

Consumer trust is fading and varies among industries. Consumers trust companies less today than in the past. Only 12% of consumers said they trust companies more than they did 1 year ago, while 17% trust companies more today than 1 decade ago.

Just 25% of respondents believe most companies handle their sensitive personal data responsibly. Even fewer—only 15%—think companies will use that data to improve their lives.

If your customers don’t trust you to protect their sensitive data and use them responsibly, you’ll get nowhere in your efforts to harness the value of those data to offer customers a better experience, according to the researchers. Some 88% of consumers agree the extent of their willingness to share personal information is predicated on how much they trust a given company.

According to the research, banks and hospitals tie as most trusted with 42% when it comes to privacy and cybersecurity, outranking healthcare providers, nonprofits, and online retailers. Social media companies, advertising agencies, and startups are less trusted than firms in other sectors (3%) and must be proactive in maintaining consumer trust, according to the PwC report.

Consumers want businesses to be responsive and transparent and to take steps to ensure a breach does not happen again. After a data breach, consumers are willing to forgive, but their trust can only be regained if companies implement real changes in the wake of a breach.

Preferences on how companies can regain their trust after a data breach are:

  • 27% of respondents want compensation for victims.
  • 22% want a detailed explanation of what happened and how it is being resolved.
  • 20% want proof that the right systems are in place.
  • 19% want complementary security services to ensure data is safe.
  • 5% want a clear description of the privacy policies in place.
  • 3% are fine with a simple apology.