Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

UK consumers less concerned in 2022 about their data privacy than 10 years ago

UK consumers are becoming less concerned about their data privacy, according to new research by the UK Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Global Data & Marketing Alliance (GDMA), and customer intelligence specialists Acxiom. The UK-specific report is now in its fourth iteration and represents over a decade of tracking since it was first conceived in 2012.

The rise of the Data Unconcerned, people who show little or no concern about their data privacy, has doubled over the past 10 years. This increase has been an established trend in the UK since 2012 – with this segment growing steadily from 16% in 2012, to 25% in 2018, and 31% in 2022.

Data Fundamentalists, who are unwilling to provide personal information even in return for service enhancement, are on a notable decline – this group has reduced from 31% in 2012 to 23% in 2022. The report consistently highlights age as a key influencing factor in levels of confidence and comfort with interacting with the data ecosystem. For example, 40% of 65+ consumers are Data Fundamentalists, but this drops to just 9% of 25-34s, and only 9% of 18-24s.

Data Pragmatists, who are happy to exchange data with businesses so long as there is a clear benefit for doing so, continue to make up the largest proportion (46%), as was the case with 2012’s report (53%).

Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA, said: “As the UK’s digital economy, alongside digital markets around the world, continue to advance and mature, there has been an increase in public ease and engagement with data sharing and the digital world. Younger people are digital natives – this is reflected in both their willingness to share data and acceptance of its importance to modern society.”

The proportion of UK consumers who claim to have high levels of concerns about their online privacy has fallen notably over the past decade. In 2022, 69% of UK consumers stated high levels of online privacy concerns, compared to 84% in 2012.

A decline in levels of concern with online privacy is being driven by relatively low levels of concern demonstrated among younger age groups, particularly the 18-24s. For example, in the UK, 77% of the 65+ cohort are concerned about online privacy, but this falls significantly to 54% among those aged 18-24.

Alex Hazell, Head of Privacy and Legal, EMEA, Acxiom, commented: “As people get ever more familiar with data and technology, as well as the benefits they can offer, their overall concern is falling. This reality, borne out by consistent, independent research spanning ten years, appears to contrast with sensationalised claims in some media and quarters. People’s familiarity is beginning to translate into better understanding which, in turn, leads to greater transparency and trust. Efforts to increase understanding and transparency must continue, not just to satisfy lawfulness but also because it is good for brands and people.”

The number of UK consumers who view the exchange of personal information as essential for the smooth running of modern society has grown dramatically over the previous decade, rising from 38% in 2012 to 60% in 2022.

Since 2012, there has been a clear shift towards a UK consumer who is more likely to view personal data as having an intrinsic value that can be utilised for personal advantage. In 2022, 61% view their personal information as an asset that can be used to negotiate better prices and offers with companies, up from 40% in 2012.

Combemale said: “Overall, concern with data privacy is in decline, while the levels of happiness with the amount of data shared and comfort with the notion of data exchange are on the rise. If your product or service creates real benefits for people by using their data then you should say so, openly and proudly. Consumers will reward you with their trust and their custom.”