Identity Theft a Top Security Concern for American Consumers

Consumers consistently regard their social security numbers as their most sensitive piece of personal information, according to the survey.

it security and consumers

At least once in the last 12 months, more than one-third (35 percent) of consumers have decided not to purchase products or services from a company because of privacy concerns, according to a Morrison & Foerster survey of more than 900 consumers from across the United States.

Among respondents, approximately one in five (22 percent) reported that they no longer purchased products or services from a company because of a reported data breach, with more educated, higher earning consumers more likely to stop buying from a business because of a breach.

More than a third (37 percent) of respondents indicated that they trust the business community more than the government--a significant change from the 2011 survey, which was conducted shortly before Edward Snowden made headlines.

However, the survey indicated greater transparency would go a long way in re-establishing lost trust in the U.S. government.

Seven out of 10 consumers said that they would be more accepting of U.S. government surveillance programs if the government provided more information about how the programs worked and how the government was protecting the privacy of its citizens.

For more than half of the survey’s respondents (52 percent), identity theft was their biggest privacy concern, with consumers identifying privacy as a factor that influences their buying decisions.

Consumers consistently regard their social security numbers as their most sensitive piece of personal information, followed by any password or other personal identification number that is required to access an online account or services.

The survey also indicated some consumers have given up on the ability of companies to protect sensitive and personal information.

Consumers put their trust in companies for a host of reasons, including their belief in the brand (17 percent) and observed technological safeguards (16 percent), according to survey results. In the last 12 months, more than one in three U.S. consumers (35 percent) said they have made a purchasing decision based on privacy concerns.

In 2011, five out of 10 U.S. consumers (54 percent) reported a decision not to make a purchase because of privacy concerns.

In the latest survey, more than eight in 10 consumers (82 percent) identify privacy concerns as a factor that has adversely affected their decision to buy a product or service from a particular company.

"Privacy is a social norm, sometimes captured in laws and regulations, which sets limits on the collection, protection, processing, and deletion of personal information," the report noted. "As has become increasingly clear in recent years, privacy presents real business risks that have the potential to negatively impact a company’s bottom line, from the legal fees associated with a data breach to a decline in revenue stemming from a loss in consumer trust."