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October 20, 2021updated 21 Oct 2021 8:19am

Privacy actives: One in three consumers switch suppliers over data practices

Nearly 50% of consumers feel unable to control their data, while a third have ditched suppliers in response to their data protection practices, according to a new global survey.

By Victor Vladev

A third of consumers care enough about privacy to ditch a service provider in response to its data protection practices, according to a new global survey by network equipment provider Cisco. The study also reveals that a little under 50% of consumers feel able to control their personal data, largely because it is too hard to find out what companies are doing with it.

privacy attitudes

‘Privacy actives’ – those who care enough about privacy to switch suppliers – are most common among people aged 25 to 34. (Photo by Memitina/iStock)

Privacy attitudes: Do consumers care?

This year’s Consumer Privacy Survey, conducted in June among 2,600 adults in 12 countries including the UK, US, China, France and Germany, found that 32% of adult citizens are what Cisco calls ‘privacy actives’ – people who not only care about data privacy, but also are willing to take action to protect it and have already done so in the past. This proportion has remained roughly stable throughout the past three years’ surveys. The highest proportion of those with attitudes labelling them ‘privacy actives’ was found among respondents aged 25 and 34 (44%).

Another consistent finding is that a little under half of consumers feel unable to adequately protect their personal data (46% in 2021, 48% last year). The most common reason given is that "it's too hard to figure out what companies are doing with my data". 

A sizeable minority of consumers have taken measures into their own hands by asking companies to disclose how they are using their data, and requesting changes to that use or that their data be deleted. These courses of action were most common among Indian respondents to the survey (49% and 37%) respectively. This is even though India does not have a "right to be forgotten" enshrined in its privacy laws. The UK, which does, was below average among the surveyed countries in both measures, with only 18% of British respondents having inquired how their data is used.

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Who is responsible for protecting data privacy?

Consumers look to their national governments as the primary protector of privacy, the survey shows. Nearly four in ten (37%) say the national government should be responsible for protecting data privacy, nearly double those who look to private companies (21%). 

The Cisco report recommends that data processing organisations address privacy concerns by providing clear communication about what they do with consumer data, and customers of the rights and protections they have under their national regulations.

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