How do organizations earn and build trust when it comes to the personal data that customers share with them? Customers certainly expect these organizations to comply with all privacy laws that are now in place in more than 130 countries. Customers also expect them not to sell personal data without consent and to try to avoid data breaches that could expose personal data. While these actions are necessary, organizations still need to do more when it comes to customer trust. According to our latest research, consumers’ top priority is, in fact, for organizations to be more transparent about how they use personal data.

The Cisco 2022 Consumer Privacy Survey, released today, explores what organizations can do to earn and build trust with customers, the actions individuals are taking to protect their data, the impact of privacy laws around the world, and some of the benefits and costs of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data localization requirements. The report, our fourth annual look at consumer privacy issues, draws on anonymous responses from 2600 adults in 12 countries.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  1. Consumers chose ‘data transparency’ as the top thing organizations can do to build trust regarding how personal data is used and protected. At 39%, data transparency was selected almost twice as much as ‘refraining from selling personal information’ (21%) or ‘complying with all privacy laws’ (20%).
  2. More consumers are taking action to protect their personal data. Results showed that 37% have stopped using a company or provider over their data practices, with 24% having exercised their Data Subject Access Rights to inquire about the data companies have about them, and 14% having requested changes or deletions to that data.
  3. When it comes to applying and using AI, consumers are supportive, but very concerned with today’s practices. While 43% say AI can be useful in improving our lives and 54% are even willing to share their anonymized personal data to improve AI products, 60% are concerned about how businesses are using AI today. In fact, 65% say they have already lost trust in organizations due to their AI practices.
  4. Consumers continue to strongly support their nation’s privacy laws, as they want their government to take a leading role in protecting personal privacy. On average, 61% felt these laws are having a positive impact, whereas only 3% believe they are having a negative impact. Awareness of these laws continues to be a challenge as only 43% say they are aware of their country’s privacy laws.
  5. Consumers are evenly split on the value of data localization requirements that add cost to the products and services they buy, with 41% in favor and 41% against. Interestingly, in 9 of the 12 countries surveyed, more respondents were against data localization than in favor.

Check out the associated infographic that provides visual and easily consumable descriptions of the key data.

At Cisco, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. Privacy continues to be a high priority for consumers, and organizations need to do their part to protect personal data and build consumer confidence in how this data is being used. Some recommendations for organizations include:

  • Investing in transparency. Show your customers where they can find your company’s privacy policies and tell them in easy-to-understand ways exactly how you use their data (see, for example, Cisco’s in Privacy Data Sheets and Data Maps) as this is critical for earning and building their trust.
  • Helping to ensure your customers are aware of relevant privacy laws and their rights. Individuals who know about these protections are more likely to trust organizations with their personal data and have confidence that their data is protected.
  • Adopting measures to ensure responsible use of data. While misuse of personal data in AI can erode consumer trust, some positive steps to apply and use it responsibly include implementing an AI governance framework, providing transparency on how personal data is used in any AI application, and enabling customers to opt out of the specific application.
  • Evaluating the costs and legal alternatives, if any, to data localization requirements. These requirements may not be worth their cost to many consumers, and it is still unclear if they contribute to greater safety and privacy.

Privacy remains a critical element of trust. Consumers want more transparency and control of their personal data, especially as we continue to see innovations in technology. As we are now in the midst of Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the US and other countries around the world, it’s a great time to learn more and join in activities and discussions that advance cybersecurity.

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Robert Waitman

Director, Privacy Center of Excellence