SAS research: data security not a digital deterrent for consumers

Concerns about security slow mobile payment adoption, but use of digital tech still growing

You’d think recent data hacks and breaches, especially at government agencies and financial websites, would intensify public worries about data privacy and security. But no. A new study from SAS, “Mobility, Vulnerability and the State of Data Privacy,” reports just 63 percent of respondents say events like these have heightened their concerns. That’s down from 77 percent in similar research from 2014.

Unfortunately, the good news ends there. In the recent survey, 62 percent of consumers report concern about what businesses do with their personal data. A whopping 30 percent feel no control at all over what businesses do with their information. Only 11 percent optimistically believe they have total control.

Age, income and gender play a role. Those who are more affluent, female or over 40 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. Six in 10 consumers expressed qualms about data being collected via their smartphones or PCs. 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, 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. Only 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.

Consumers place responsibility for their personal information squarely with the businesses collecting it. 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.

But to be fair, consumers are also lackadaisical when it comes to protecting their privacy. Only 13 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.   

Likely, that’s because companies don’t make policies and terms easy to read. Half the survey participants have abandoned a transaction because of the terms of agreement. While reasons include length and complexity, the main complaint is that consumers still had concerns about privacy, even after reading the information.  

“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.

For more information on the research and expert advice on how to address customers’ concerns, join the Mobility, Vulnerability and the State of Data Privacy webcast on Thursday, March 24, at 1 p.m. ET.

About SAS

SAS is a global leader in data and AI. With SAS software and industry-specific solutions, organizations transform data into trusted decisions. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.

Editorial contacts: