Seven out of ten customers would boycott a brand that mishandled their data

Most customers (69%) would completely boycott a brand if it repeatedly showed no regard for protecting customer data, a YouGov survey reported.

Additionally, 78% of respondents to the survey said that company reputation relating to its handling of customer data made an impact on their buying decisions.

The online survey, which was commissioned by cybersecurity firm RSA, polled 7,500 adult consumers in the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy on the value they place on the security of their personal information, the lengths they would go to protect it, and the subsequent business-impact for global organisations.

The report found that 90% of consumers are concerned about their private information being lost, stolen, or manipulated. 

Their biggest concerns were monetary theft (74%), identity theft (70%), and having embarrassing or sensitive information made public (45%) were the biggest data security concerns.

More than a third (36%) also fear being blackmailed with stolen private images or messages.

This degree of concern is likely the result of high-profile data breaches in recent times, the report said. More than seven in 10 (72%) of respondents believe they are more aware of such threats compared to five years ago.

Perhaps as a result of this concern, 78% of consumers actively limit the amount of personal information they put online, or share with companies and, a step further, 41% intentionally falsify personal information. 

The most commonly falsified types of personal information are phone numbers (27%), birth dates (17%) and email addresses (16%). 

"As GDPR comes into effect this year, data security and privacy are hot on the agenda for consumers and companies alike," Rashmi Knowles, Field chief technology officer, EMEA at RSA Security, said. "Consumers are keenly aware of recent high profile breaches, and are therefore demanding much more from the companies that handle their data."

The business impact of not ensuring appropriate levels of security will reach far beyond fines for compromising customer data, Knowles cautioned.

"With more than half (54%) of respondents less likely to buy from a company they know has been mishandling data, and 62% inclined to blame the company above anyone else if data is lost, it’s clear consumers are ready to vote with their feet against organisations that fall short of their expectations. The financial and reputational damage of a data breach in 2018 could be devastating," she said. 

Fortunately, along with this heightened concerns about the safety of their personal data, customers are also aware of the value of that same data. 

The survey found that consumers are willing to reward those companies that can prove data is being handled responsibly – with one in two respondents more likely to shop with a company that can prove it takes data protection seriously.

Almost a third (31%) of respondents believe companies that have more of their customers’ data are able to offer better and more personalised products, and over a quarter (26%) would gladly trade their data for an improved customer experience or service, Knowles continued. 

"Consumers clearly understand the value of their personal data and – while there may rightly be occasions for caution – they are willing to part with it under the right circumstances," she concluded.