US consumers seriously concerned over their personal data

KPMG reports that Americans are worried about how companies treat their personal information, and that the C-suite might be insufficiently aware of that fact.

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A report released today by Big Four accounting firm KPMG found that large majorities of the American public are highly concerned about the security of their personal data, and that US companies aren’t helping matters by ramping up their collection of that data.

Fully 92% of respondents to KPMG’s survey said that they were concerned to some extent about how personal data that they provide to companies is handled, and nearly nine in 10 said that businesses should be more forthright in detailing how they handle personal data they collect.

“Consumers want more trust in and control over the use and collection of their data,” the report’s authors wrote. “Companies that provide access to clear information about their data use processes can expect to improve the level of trust among conusmers.”

Those concerns were on the rise this past year, with particular data-sharing behavior concerns like signing up for rewards programs and even using public Wi-Fi experiencing increases of four and nine percentage points, respectively, compared to the previous year’s report. Despite the fact that these concerns haven’t created a drag on behavior—people consistently engage in online behavior they nevertheless view as risky, according to KPMG’s data—consumer worries for the safety of their data remain high.

Businesses themselves are highly confident in their plans for collecting and using consumer data over the next three years, the report found, with 97% of business leaders saying that they’re pleased with their arrangements in that area. Strong majorities also said that they had increased the volume of their data collection over the pandemic years, despite just 49% reporting that they provide clear information about how consumer data is used, and 45% provide timely breach reports.

Some of this divide, according to KPMG, may spring from an information deficit— senior management, the report suggested, may not fully understand what’s happening on the “front lines” of data privacy issues. Despite many executives expressing confidence in their handling of consumer information, overall transparency hasn’t increased very much, and spending on items like employee data protection training has actually dropped precipitously over the past year.

That’s a trend that needs to be reversed, according to the report’s authors.

“One might imagine, with concerns and potential liabilities rising in terms of data breaches, data security, and how data is actually being used, that training would be on the upside,” they wrote. “This cannot stand—with three-quarters of companies collecting more personal data than last year, insufficient training may contribute to an increase in data program risk.”

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