The number of British internet users that trust companies with their personal information online has dropped to 55 per cent, a fall from 63 per cent two years ago, leaving 45 per cent who do not trust companies with any personal data, according to the latest research from Ipsos Mori.
This lack of trust could be taking its toll on online businesses, with increased privacy concerns thought to explain why 91 per cent of consumers are less likely to click on online advertisements, according to the research, which polled over 2,000 UK internet users last December.
The TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index - the publication of which coincides with Data Privacy Day 2014 (today) - also found that 89 per cent of internet users claimed to avoid companies that they believe do not protect their privacy.
The report also revealed that 78 per cent of respondents avoid using smartphone apps that they believe to be untrustworthy, with the same percentage more likely to check websites and apps for privacy certification.
Meanwhile more than two thirds (64 per cent) are now less likely to enable location tracking on their smartphone, according to the report.
Ken Parnham, European managing director of TRUSTe believes this trend in lack of consumer trust could have a detrimental effect on businesses if left unchecked.
“Lack of trust can starve businesses of valuable data and sales, restricting the lifeblood of the digital economy. These findings show that success is no longer just about innovation, companies need to take decisive action to address online privacy concerns to stay ahead of the competition, minimise risk and build online trust," he said.
Another major finding from the report indicates that among those whose privacy concerns have increased, three times as many (60 per cent) are concerned about companies sharing their data than government surveillance programmes such as the NSA's PRISM.
"It is a wake-up call for businesses that commercial data collection and sharing, rather than government activity, is the main driver of increased online privacy concerns," added Parnham.
Overall, 60 per cent of respondents said they are more concerned about online privacy today than they were a year ago. Of those that said they were more concerned this year, 60 percent attributed the feeling to companies sharing their personal information with other companies, while 54 percent were concerned about companies tracking their online behaviour to target them with ads and content.
Only 20 percent cited media coverage of government surveillance programmes as a reason for their increased concern.