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Data Privacy and Security at Centre of American Anxieties Reveals Wunderman Thompson Report

Advertising Agency
Kansas City, USA
Level of concern even surpasses political leadership and other major societal issues
Wunderman Thompson Data has launched its 2019 Data Privacy and Security Study. 58% of respondents are very concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information and data, surpassing key societal issues including political leadership, gun violence and more. The only issue more concerning than data privacy to Americans is health care.

The complexities of the data industry and how it directly impacts individuals, combined with a general lack of knowledge of how it all works and what to do about it is making people feel stuck, and contributing to their anxiety. Americans are less diligent than they know they should be in ensuring the privacy and security of their personal information, primarily because they aren’t sure what to do, they don’t fully understand how companies are using their personal data, and know that doing so is time consuming. 

Key findings from the survey include:

- 85% agree: "It’s difficult to know just what to do to protect your personal information and data these days”
- 82% recognise they should be more diligent in protecting their personal data and information
- 68% find Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policies “difficult to understand” and as a result, 72% only read them sometimes (25%), rarely (35%) or never (12%).
- 64% say: “I worry about the security and privacy of my personal information & data, but honestly, I’ve kind of given up trying to control it.”
- 53% strongly agree: “It seems a little sneaky to me the way companies go about getting this data and using it”
- Only 18% say they are 'very diligent' in ensuring the privacy and security of their data 
- Only 15% strongly agree: “I feel like I have a good understanding of how my data is used by the company I do business with and the services I use”

Data protection regulations and legislation are barely registering with consumers. Awareness of GDPR (13%), COPPA (12%) and the CCPA (10%) are only 2-3 percentage above ghost levels. And, while the data industry sees an important distinction between data privacy and data security, the difference is largely lost on consumers.  If anything, Americans think mainly in terms of security, with identity theft, hacks, breaches, social security numbers, stolen data, data safety, and banking information coming to mind when Americans think of either data security or data privacy. 

While the data industry is focused on PII – personally identifiable information – Americans are focused on a different kind of PII – personally intimate information. Data points including your fingerprint, the location of your family members, and when you’re having relationship problems skew towards the top of the Wunderman Thompson Data 'Creepy Scale of data', compared to data points like gender, race/ethnicity, age, product searches, ad clicks, etc..

Interestingly, Wunderman Thompson Data found that while Republicans and Democrats obviously differ on many issues, when it comes to the privacy and security of their data, they’re both on the same page. They are both also equally concerned about cyber-terrorism and identity theft, leaving the public thinking: could the data privacy and security issue be the great unifier in America?

1,500 US-based respondents were surveyed in this quantitative study conducted by Wunderman Thompson Data’s research practice.

“Multiple data breaches, unauthorised access and many cases of data misuse have consistently surfaced in recent times. The Wunderman Thompson Data Privacy and Security Study aims to shed light on how everyday people feel about this critical issue. Hoping to   provide insights to better understand the consumer perspective and how to best meet the needs of customers, as part of their overall engagement with brands,” said Jacques van Niekerk, CEO, Wunderman Thompson Data

“As we continue to evaluate and evolve data and privacy concerns for 2020 and beyond and in particular with the implementation of the impending California Consumer Privacy Act (the first comprehensive privacy law in the U.S. focused on how data is flowing from consumers to companies), our teams are focused on supporting our clients with education to better prepare them on data privacy and security matters given these resounding statistics on the issues,” said Rachel Glasser, Global Chief Privacy Officer, Wunderman Thompson.