Morrison & Foerster Survey: More Than One in Three Consumers' Purchasing Decisions Are Impacted by Concerns Over Privacy

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Study commissioned by the firm’s Global Privacy and Data Security Group also highlights the privacy issues that people worry about and who they most trust with their information.

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Morrison & Foerster, a leading global law firm and Legal 500’s Cyber Crime Firm of the Year, today 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.

“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, “Morrison & Foerster Insights: Consumer Outlooks on Privacy,” include:

1. 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. For consumers who self-identify as being “concerned” about privacy, 82% have decided not to buy from a company because of worries over privacy compared to the 54% who felt this way when this survey was conducted in 2011.

2. 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. 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 an “upper income” level (defined as $100,000+) and 28% with an undergraduate or postgraduate education stop buying from a business because of a data breach.    

3. 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. 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.

4. 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, representing a significant increase over the 20% who responded this way when this survey was conducted in 2011. 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.

Morrison & Foerster’s survey, “Morrison & Foerster Insights: Consumer Outlooks on Privacy,” was conducted online in November 2015. The survey polled over 900 consumers from across the country. The demographics of the survey sample generally track the U.S. Census, and are available upon request. The full report is available at    

We are Morrison & Foerster – a global firm of exceptional credentials. Our clients include some of the largest financial institutions, investment banks, Fortune 100, and technology and life sciences companies. The Financial Times has named the firm to its lists of most innovative law firms in North America and Asia every year that it has published its Innovative Lawyers Reports in those regions. In the past few years, Chambers USA has honored MoFo’s Bankruptcy and IP teams with Firm of the Year awards, the Corporate/M&A team with a client service award, and the firm as a whole as Global USA Firm of the Year. Our lawyers are committed to achieving innovative and business-minded results for our clients, while preserving the differences that make us stronger.

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Amy Merriweather
Morrison & Foerster
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