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European and Middle Eastern consumers deeply conflicted over privacy and security priorities

Study reveals differing attitudes across EMEA towards personal data use and protection from cyber terrorism

Report highlights:

  • 75 per cent of consumers have no confidence in social media brands and marketing companies’ protection of their data, yet more consumers are sharing data on social media than ever before
  • 88% of consumers feel strongly that organisations should improve authentication for greater security
  • Almost a third (31 per cent) see no value in giving their personal data to companies, and yet over half (53%) are willing to share their date of birth, marital status (51 per cent) and personal interests (50 per cent) in return for using a company’s services for free
  • 43 per cent of consumers agree that private organisations should give government agencies access to locked devices – with major differences in countries across Europe and the Middle East
  • Over a fifth of consumers (21 per cent) think individuals should be responsible for protecting themselves against cyber terrorist threats

VIENNA – An EMEA-wide study commissioned by F5 Networks has revealed that whilst European and Middle Eastern consumers have confidence in some organisations to keep their data safe, many are willing to share their personal information in return for using a service for free. The study, conducted by Opinium Research, surveyed over 7,000 consumers across the UK, Germany, France, Bene, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Poland, exploring their attitudes towards data security and handling.

Fear of the known

Sharing data with private companies left nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of consumers concerned that their data would get into the wrong hands, followed closely by their privacy being compromised (64 per cent). Social media brands and marketing companies fared the worst: 75 per cent of consumers stated they do not trust either with their personal data at all, and only 21 per cent were confident that they could protect consumer data effectively from hackers.

But for some, these fears were overlooked if it meant they could use a company’s services for free. Over half were willing to share their date of birth (53 per cent), marital status (51 per cent) and personal interests (50 per cent); in Poland, 58 per cent would share their shopping habits, and half of consumers in Saudi Arabia, their mobile number. Yet almost a fifth (18 per cent) stated they would not give up their data at all, rising to 33 per cent in the UK. In fact, UK consumers were consistently the least willing to give up their data across EMEA. 

With trust comes expectation

While consumers regarded banks as the most trustworthy companies (76 per cent) and had more confidence in them to protect their data (73 per cent) compared with other sectors, there remains a dissatisfaction in the methods used to protect their data. Consumers believed that banks (77 per cent), followed by healthcare (71 per cent), and public sector and government (74 per cent), needed to field better authentication capabilities to achieve greater security.

88% of consumers feel strongly that organisations should improve authentication for greater security.

 “There are clear differences in the type of companies that consumers trust with their data,” Mike Convertino, CISO and VP, Information Security at F5 Networks commented. “Companies with a traditional focus on security, such as banks, are by far considered the most trustworthy but interestingly, we share the most information with social media channels despite the fact that we trust these companies the least to keep our data safe. Regardless of the industry, any consumer facing organisation needs to ensure that its protection is in line with its customers increasing demands. As we all become more aware of the risks, it becomes even more important to get a security and data protection infrastructure – technology, education and processes - in place that is stringent enough to protect against threats, but does not harm the customer experience.”

The Debate: Privacy or Protection?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), recently approved by the European Parliament, gives citizens the right to complain and obtain redress if their data is misused within the EU. When asked what they viewed as misusing their data, over two thirds (67 per cent) believed it was sharing their data with third parties without consent. Across EMEA, Poland (71 per cent) and UK (75 per cent) consumers felt strongest about sharing their data without consent as misuse.

In the wake of the Apple and FBI debate over smartphone unlocking, 43 per cent of consumers agree with the statement that technology organisations should prioritise national security over consumer privacy (31 per cent) and give government agencies access to locked devices. The figures were even higher in the UK (50 per cent) and Bene (49 per cent), but lower in Germany (38 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (37 per cent).

The responsibility for protecting consumers against cyber terrorist threats is also up for debate. Over one fifth (21 per cent) of consumers believe that we should be responsible for protecting ourselves whilst twice as many (43 per cent) felt that it was the job of the government of their country to protect its citizens. The initial response begs the question as to whether more consumers are recognising that they play a pivotal role in the protection against external threats, but there’s still some way to go in sharing the responsibility.

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