How your organization handles issues related to data privacy and data security will have an enormous impact on the willingness of consumers to do business with you.

That is one of the key findings of a new study by New York-based Morrison& Foerster, a leading global law firm that was cited as Legal 500’s Cyber Crime Firm of the Year.

The firm has just released the results of its latest consumer survey on privacy. The survey, “Morrison & Foerster Insights: Consumer Outlooks on Privacy,” examines the attitudes and concerns that U.S. consumers across the country have regarding multiple privacy-related issues, such as the disclosure of personal information, data breaches, and privacy policies. The study results offer some important lessons for IT and data professionals.

“We conducted this survey because we are committed to helping businesses better understand, and comply with, the rapidly changing privacy landscape,” said Andrew Serwin, co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Global Privacy and Data Security Group. “The findings indicate that a significant percentage of the American people continue to be concerned about numerous facets of security.”

Key findings from the survey include:

Consumers’ purchasing decisions are impacted by privacy concerns.

“Despite privacy being unrelated to the quality of a product or service that consumers receive, more than one in three people (35%) over the last 12 months have decided not to buy from a company based upon concerns over privacy,” the study notes.

For consumers who say they are “concerned” about privacy, 82% have decided not to buy from a company because of worries over data privacy, compared to the 54% who felt this way when this survey was conducted in 2011.

Better educated, higher earning consumers are most likely to stop buying from a business because of a data breach.

“More than one in five of all survey respondents (22%) have ceased purchasing from a company as a result of a data breach,” the study reveals. “A deeper dive into the data shows that the key demographic of better educated, higher earning consumers react most negatively to this scenario.”

Thirty-three percent of people at the “upper income” level (defined as $100,000+) and 28% with an undergraduate or postgraduate education said they stop buying from a business because of a data breach. Although businesses are facing trust issues, the government is worse off.

“Almost three times as many people (37% compared to 13%) trust the private sector more than the government, with the remaining 50% trusting them equally,” according to the study. “This is a significant change from when this survey was conducted in 2011 -- shortly before Edward Snowden’s defection -- at which time 30% of people trusted the government more when compared to the 29% who favored the private sector.”

The majority of consumers cite identity theft as their biggest privacy concern.

More than half of the survey respondents (52%) named identity theft as their biggest concern about privacy. That represents a significant increase over the 20% who responded this way when this survey was conducted in 2011, the study authors explain.

After identity theft, the right to privacy was identified by 10% of people as their most significant concern, followed by the 9% of survey respondents who shared that they trust the system and understand nothing is perfect.

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