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Believe It Or Not, Millennials Do Care About Privacy, Security

80% say it is vitally or very important that PII, financial, and/or medical data be shared only with authorized parties

Research released today conflicts with the prevailing stereotype that the Millennial generation doesn't care a whit about privacy, and that data security is, correspondingly, a low priority. Millenials "do care about data security and privacy," according to a survey of approximately 2,000 16- to 35-year-olds in the United States and United Kingdom, commissioned by identity management firm Intercede and conducted by Atomik Research.

"Often times I was told by the industry that Millennials don’t care about cybersecurity or the services we provide, that identity management and secure authentication was not a priority because Millennials look at things differently as a generation that grew up digitally engaged," says Richard Parris, CEO of Intercede. "So when we first set out to do this survey we thought that’s what the findings would reveal. ... but it’s the opposite."

Eighty percent of respondents said it was "vital" or "very important" that personally identifiable, financial, and medical data be shared only with those whom they have authorized access. Respondents were somewhat less concerned about other data: 74 percent responded the same about location data, 58 percent for social media content, and 57 percent for purchasing preferences.

Most of them aren't entirely willing to surrender data just to get a better retail experience or free stuff. Only 40 percent of respondents would hand over location data in exchange for targeted goods or services and 40 percent would give a summary of their shopping habits in exchange for free products and services.

Retail ranked in the middle of the pack, when respondents were asked to rate what level of trust they place in industry verticals with their personal information online. Lowest on the list were social media platforms (61 percent saying they put little or no trust in those sites), dating sites, and search engines. Highest on the list were financial institutions and government; however there were still a large component of respondents (22 percent) that said their level of trust in government was "little" to "none."

Respondents did indicate some level of helplessness over the situation. When asked for their personal motivation for allowing compnies to have access to their data, the most common response, (23 percent) was "I believe they will have access to my data either way, so it doesn't matter if I grant it to them or not."

Yet, they also indicated that there would be a tipping point -- 54% said that companies' and government agencies' failure to improve online security will eventually result in public distrust of goods and services and 44% said there will be an eventual decline in data sharing. 

"For government and business service providers the lesson to take away is that they should not be making broad assumptions and getting it wrong," says Parris. "They will see a churn in user behavior and long term repercussions happen if privacy and data security is not looked at as a priority."

As far as their understanding of security practices and willingness to use them, security professionals may find the results frustrating. Only 6 percent of the Millennials surveyed feel their data is extremely secure based upon the password policy they apply. Eighteen percent are less likely to use a digital resource or device if it requires complex passwords to use it, yet only 32 percent state they would like to see more secure and convenient digital verification and authentication methods available. Some of those respondents, though -- 30 percent of them -- would even welcome or consider digital chip implants as a next-generation method for secure identity management.

"I think what this survey says is Millennials aren’t really that different from the rest of the population," says Parris. "Yes, they do share a bit more - but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t concerned with privacy or that they aren’t uncomfortable by the idea of that privacy being compromised. They make judgments about what information they share and where they share it. There is a segmentation that is preformed -- they evaluate what they will get as a benefit vs. what they have to give up."

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