Forced Insecurity: 64% of Adults Say Data Sharing is Required to Use Online Services Despite Declining Trust in Digital Service Providers

  • 41% of consumers globally say their trust in digital service providers’ ability to keep personal data secure has decreased over the past five years

  • Only 9% of consumers trust cloud messaging services, yet 40% used these services to share intimate, private secrets

Imperva, Inc., the comprehensive digital security leader on a mission to help organizations protect their data and all paths to it, releases findings from a global study on consumer perceptions of data privacy and trust in digital service providers. In an increasingly digital world, consumers feel trapped: sharing personal data is a requirement to use digital services, but the majority do not trust these organizations to protect their data.

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“An @imperva study of global consumers reveals varying perceptions of trust, data security, and privacy in the digital world.”

The “No Silver Linings” report, authored by Imperva, is informed by an online YouGov survey of 6,773 consumers aged 18+ across the USA, UK, Australia, and Singapore. The research reveals several significant trends related to consumers’ perception of trust, data security, and privacy:

  • Exhausted consumers have given up on security: Half of consumers surveyed say they share data with so many different companies that they can’t possibly verify the security posture of each one. As a result, many are numb to the issue of data protection. One in five (20%) don’t care how much data they share online, while 26% believe it’s “inevitable” that their data will be leaked so they don’t worry about it.
  • Trust has hit rock bottom: Even industries that handle the most valuable and sensitive data are not trusted by consumers. Only 37% trust financial services, 33% healthcare, and 29% government organizations, while a mere 5% trust retailers. More than a third (35%) of all consumers don’t trust any of these industries to adequately protect their data at all.
  • The cloud is full of secrets: Of the adults who shared private secrets on a cloud messaging service or app, 16% shared their sexual fantasies or fetishes. Others share sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive comments (14%). There are also those who admit to sharing details about substance abuse (12%) or cheating on a partner (10%).
  • Leaked data has the potential to ruin lives: 79% of those who have discussed private topics admit they could face serious consequences if their discussions online were leaked. Nearly half (47%) say it would ruin their relationships with friends or family, while 39% say it would impact their mental health, and 28% would be left open to blackmail. Further, respondents claim they could lose their job (22%), their partner (19%), or even custody of a child (10%).
  • Generation Z is more comfortable sharing data: Young adults (18 – 24) are more comfortable sharing their data online and are twice as likely to share information on their mental health openly. They worry less about the financial impact of data theft – only 48% list having money stolen as a top three concern, compared to the average of 58%. However, this generation is concerned about their online reputations: 15% are concerned about someone taking over their social media account, and 21% worry about a deepfake video of them circulating online.
  • New threats bring new worries, especially for women: Emerging threats, such as deepfakes, are creating new fears for consumers. Asked what they would find most upsetting if a deepfake video of them emerged, 54% of respondents said a video of them performing sexual acts. The concern was significantly higher among female respondents (62%), likely due to heightened concerns around revenge porn.

“Consumers face a disheartening Catch-22 scenario: they need digital services to operate in modern life, but their trust in these services is deteriorating,” says Terry Ray, SVP and Field CTO, Imperva. “Businesses need to focus on who is accessing their data and protecting the paths a cybercriminal might exploit to get to the data. Investing in data-centric security must be part of every organization’s strategy as consumers grow increasingly cynical of the services they use.”

While connectivity between applications and digital services creates seamless online experiences for consumers, there is reason for concern. On average, the volume of records stolen each year is growing at a rate of 224%, according to an analysis by Imperva Threat Research.

There are serious consequences for organizations that fail to secure their consumers’ data. Nearly half of the respondents (45%) have stopped, or would stop, using a company’s services following a serious data breach. As the volume of attacks and data breaches multiplies each year, companies need to focus on how they manage sensitive data, and more importantly, who has access to it. For every organization, large and small, this is now a business imperative.

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