Do consumers today care enough about protecting their privacy that they are willing to act? There was a time — just a few years ago — when consumers felt they had already lost the privacy battle. They believed their data was already “out there” on the internet, they didn’t know exactly what data companies had about them, and they felt they had little control and little choice. Fortunately, that is not where we are today.

The Cisco 2023 Consumer Privacy Survey, released today, highlights the increasing number of consumers who are acting to protect their privacy, particularly among the younger generations. These consumers are exercising their Data Subject Access Rights and leaving providers over their data practices and policies. They want their governments to take the lead role when it comes to privacy and are overwhelmingly supportive of their country’s privacy laws. They believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the power to improve their lives, but they are concerned about how it is being used today. This survey, our fifth annual look at consumer privacy issues, draws on anonymous responses from 2600 adults in 12 countries.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  1. Younger consumers are leading the way in privacy. Forty-two percent of consumers aged 18-24 have exercised their Data Subject Access Rights, enabling them to find out what personal data companies have about them. But only 15% of consumers aged 55-64 and 6% of consumers aged 75 and older have done so.
  2. Younger consumers are also more likely to take action by switching providers over their privacy practices, requesting changes or deletions to their data, and feeling confident that they can adequately protect their personal data.
  3. Consumers want governments to take the lead role in protecting privacy, and perhaps as a result, consumers overwhelmingly support their country’s privacy laws. Sixty-six percent of survey respondents said privacy laws have had a positive impact, compared with only 4% who said they’ve had a negative impact.
  4. Awareness of privacy law is a critical enabler of consumer confidence. Among consumers who are not aware of their country’s privacy laws, 40% felt confident they could protect their personal data. Among consumers who are aware of the privacy laws, it’s 74%, a significant difference.
  5. Consumers see value in AI, and over half said they are willing to share their anonymized data to make AI products better. At the same time, they are very concerned about how AI is being used today, and 60% have already lost trust in organizations over their AI use.
  6. A relatively small segment (12%) of consumers are using Generative AI (Gen AI) tools regularly. These consumers are generally aware of the privacy risk — i.e., that the data could be shared — but only 50% say they are refraining from entering personal or confidential information into Gen AI.
  7. Consumers are split on the value of data localization requirements, with many indicating that mandating local storage may not be worth the added costs.

Check out the associated infographic that provides easily consumable descriptions of the key data. This and other information can be found on the 2023 Consumer Privacy Survey page on the Cisco Trust Center.

At Cisco, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. Governments, organizations, and individuals all need to act to protect personal data and build consumer confidence in how this data is being used. Some recommendations for organizations include:

  • Educating consumers about 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 for responsible data use. Consumers are very concerned about organizations’ use of their personal data in AI. Organizations need to build and maintain consumer confidence by implementing a governance framework centered on respecting the individuals’ privacy, increasing transparency on how data is used, and working to eliminate bias in automated decision-making.
  • Considering alternatives to data localization. These restrictions add significant costs to operations, and consumers are not nearly as supportive of data localization if it makes products and services more costly.
  • Enacting appropriate controls on the use of Gen AI. Regular Gen AI users are aware of the risks that the data they enter could be shared, but only half are refraining from entering personal or confidential information. Organizations need to establish controls to help protect this information.

Consumers are demonstrating that they are willing to act to protect their data, and privacy remains a critical element of their confidence and trust. Especially as the technology unlocks new capabilities, it is incumbent on governments, organizations, and individuals to take action to protect data privacy.

As we are in Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the US and other countries around the world, it’s a great time to empower, protect, innovate, and collaborate to advance cybersecurity. Explore our Cybersecurity Awareness Month site for educational content, upcoming activities and more to build a safer digital environment and more secure future.

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Robert Waitman

Director, Privacy Center of Excellence