Privacy Concerns Influence Consumer Purchases

Blog Photo CroppedBy Michael Goodyear

Back in 2011 just 54% of U.S. consumers, a slim majority, stated that they decided not to purchase a product due to concerns about their personal information’s confidentiality. But that number has been on the rise. Today that figure has grown to 82%, the vast majority of U.S. consumers. Of course many potentially privacy-invading products are not bought on a yearly basis, such as computers or cell phones. Yet even in the past 12 months 35% of consumers still decided not to purchase goods from a specific company due to privacy concerns.

Different groups of consumers considered privacy concerns differently in regards to making a purchase. The portion of the American population that reacts most to privacy factors is that with a higher income and also that with a higher level of education (consumers with a college or post-graduate degree). Although respondents noted several chief concerns about privacy, 52% of U.S. consumers identified identity theft as their greatest concern. This was a sharp increase from 2011, when identity theft constituted only 24% of respondents’ chief privacy concerns. In addition, the next highest figure was the greatest privacy concern of only 10% of consumers, compared to the 52% on identity theft.

These findings are from a November 2015 online survey of 900 consumers, undertaken by the law firm Morrison & Foerster to gather quantitative data on the emerging trend of privacy presenting real threats to business. The results confirm the increasing role of privacy in our lives. In this case, privacy concerns influence our decisions as consumers,
but what other aspects of our lives have privacy concerns also come to influence? What about our privacy when downloading a mobile app or entering our social security number into an online application? With advances in technology and the increasing amount of personal information that ends up online, privacy concerns are here to stay. It is up to each individual to decide how he will engage with his personal privacy concerns and to what degree those concerns might influence his decisions and his life.

Michael Goodyear, who has a BA in History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, is part of the ISLAT team.

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