SAS research: data security not a digital deterrent for consumers

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

While recent hacks and data breaches of  government agencies and financial websites have intensified public concerns about data privacy and security, a new study from SAS, “Mobility, Vulnerability and the State of Data Privacy,” reveals that overall concern is down among many consumers. SAS’ latest research shows that 63 percent of respondents say recent events like these have heightened their concerns, a drop from 69 percent in similar research from 2014.

In Canada, 64 percent of Canadian consumers report concern about what businesses do with their personal data.  Similarly, 24 percent of respondents feel they have no control at all over what businesses do with their information, and only 13 percent optimistically believe they have total control.

So who are these data-weary Canadian consumers? As expected, 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, with less than half expressing concern about how personal information is recorded with these technologies.

Businesses Data Practices Disappoint

In an odd, if obvious twist, the more activities a consumer performs online 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. These consumers 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 28 percent of Canadian 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.

The issue is complicated by the fact that most consumers do not take the opportunity to be more informed about businesses’ data practices or take more responsibility when it comes to protecting their privacy. Only 13 percent of Canadian 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 Canadians check the “I agree” box without ever clicking the link to the document we are consenting to.  

This may be because companies don’t make policies and terms easy to read. Half of survey participants globally 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. 

The good news for businesses is that even with concerns about data security, a considerable number of Canadian consumers are willing to provide personal data, including their name, birth year, birth month, phone number, or email address, if it means they will get something tangible in return. With the exception of their home address, Canadian respondents are more willing than their US counterparts to share personal information in exchange for a lifetime discount.

“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.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.

The Canadian subsidiary of SAS has been in operation since 1988. Headquartered in Toronto, SAS employs more than 300 people across the country at its Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montréal offices. For more information, please visit


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