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Privacy Perspectives | Study: Younger consumers are more active on privacy Related reading: A view from Brussels: Behavioral advertising is an unstoppable current

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Younger consumers — especially those in their 20s and 30s — are acting in greater numbers to protect their privacy, compared with older consumers.

Over 40% of consumers aged 18-34 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. More younger consumers have also switched providers over privacy practices and requested changes or deletions to their data. Interestingly, they also feel more confident that they can adequately protect their personal data.

These are among the findings in the Cisco 2023 Consumer Privacy Survey, which draws on anonymous responses from 2,600 adults in 12 countries. 

Government's role in privacy

Consumers want government to take the lead in protecting privacy, and respondents overwhelmingly indicate support of 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.

Privacy law awareness

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.

AI value, risk

Consumers see value in artificial intelligence and over half said they are willing to share their anonymized data to make AI products better. At the same time, they are concerned about how AI is being used today and 60% indicated they have already lost trust in organizations over their AI use.

A relatively small segment — 12% — of consumers are using generative AI tools regularly. These consumers are generally aware of the privacy risk, that is, that the data could be shared, but only 50% say they are refraining from entering personal or confidential information into generative AI.

Recommendations for organizations

  • Educate 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 their data is protected.
  • Adopt 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.
  • Enact appropriate controls on the use of generative AI. Regular generative 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 each take action to protect our personal data.

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