NEWS23 September 2020

More American consumers willing to share sensitive data

Covid-19 Data analytics Healthcare Media News North America Privacy Public Sector

US – The public have become slightly more willing to share more sensitive data such as social security numbers, financial and health information, according to a survey of US consumers from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).  

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The survey, conducted in April, found that willingness to share sensitive information is higher for those whose jobs have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – for example, respondents that had their work hours or salary reduced were more willing to share information about a recent doctor’s visit ( 69% compared with 57% of those who experienced no impact to their job).

Mask-wearing is the piece of health information respondents were most willing to share ( 83%). However, the research also found that a quarter of respondents were unwilling to share information about being exposed to some with the virus (i.e. for contact tracing purposes).

The most trusted sources of information about the virus are doctors ( 76%) and scientific and technical experts ( 68%), according to the survey results, however, 59% said they are most likely to trust ‘people like’ themselves.

The research also found a higher level of trust in information from most sources among men compared with women.

The annual survey on privacy from the ARF also found an increase in the proportion of respondents who understand privacy policy terminology. For example, the percentage of respondents who clearly understand the term ‘third-party data’ increased by 10 percentage points compared with last year’s survey results.

Paul Donato, chief research officer, the ARF, said the report captures how Covid-19 has affected attitudes towards privacy and trust in institutions. He added: “In 2018 and 2019, there was a general decline in the willingness to share personal information, but some of that reversed in the current survey. It will be interesting to see how these sentiments evolve along with crisis developments, as well as after the upcoming election.”

The ARF conducted its third annual privacy study by surveying 1,200 American consumers between 24th-27th April 2020. The first survey was conducted during May 2018 and the second in March 2019. All three surveys were conducted using a Qualtrics online sample and platform, with quotas for age, gender and region, based on population distribution. This year included new questions about trust, privacy and terminology surrounding the pandemic.