Internet privacy has been a constant topic in the news for months, yet, until now, relatively little attention has focused on how consumers really feel about the issue.
Taking the pulse of 15,000 survey respondents in 15 different countries across the globe, our new EMC Privacy Index released today reveals how people feel about their privacy on six personal dimensions: as users of social media, as retail consumers, as customers of financial services, as medical patients with electronic medical records, as employees at work, and as citizens of their countries.
Reviewing the findings, what surprised me most was the wide variation of opinion across countries, and the people in places like India and Mexico, for example, who say they are much more willing to trade some of their Internet privacy for perceived benefits—whether the ability to get faster services from companies or government agencies online, or simply for the convenience of staying in touch with friends on social media.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, survey respondents voiced the most protective opinions about their privacy in my native Germany. On the question of, “Would you be willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease?” fully 71 percent of respondents in Germany answered no, the strongest negative response of any of the countries we surveyed.
Being German, this does not surprise me. I consider this opinion an expression of the skeptical, cautious, reserved nature that we as Germans share. It reflects our culture’s feeling that your personal data is something very personal and important that you keep really close to you, something people need to protect. Germans are convinced that the use of personal information should be restricted, and we have pretty strict laws and rules in place, where “opt-in” is the default way of doing business online. Still, there is a lack of trust in Germany about whether government does enough to protect personal privacy. In general, Germans understand that technology is moving blindingly fast and the pace of policy making moves excruciatingly slow, and struggles to keep up with the pace of change in technology.
As a global company that does business in 86 different countries around the world, EMC sees many different government and industry approaches to the protection of Internet privacy around the world. The E.U., for example, is much more restrictive than the U.S. And this global variability shapes how the markets we serve are evolving. When it comes to the adoption of cloud computing, for example, we do not expect there will be one global, public cloud standard that will suit all businesses across all countries of the world. Quite the opposite, we see room for many different public cloud providers to cater to local differences, different regulatory regimes, and differences in governance of highly regulated industries, where what applies to a certain industry in Europe may not apply to that industry in Asia or the U.S.
As the EMC Privacy Index reveals, when it comes to the safeguarding of Internet privacy, and the trade-offs consumers say they are willing (or not willing) to make in exchange for new services and benefits, this is definitely not a one-answer-fits-all world.