Consumers’ personal data is big business and from websites to wearables, companies today are collecting more information on their users than ever before. And while these companies promise that this data allows them to deliver more convenient, personalized and cost-effective services, many consumers are skeptical. In a survey of more than 30,000 consumers across 63 global markets, The Conference Board found that more than 20 percent of respondents report having reduced or abandoned their use of a brand or company due to data privacy concerns, and 19 percent say they have switched to or selected a competitor company for its better data policies.

“Overall, the results suggest a need—and opportunity—for companies to overcome consumers’ skepticism and relieve their anxiety,” says Denise Dahlhoff, senior researcher at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ digital engagement has skyrocketed during the pandemic, making transparency about data practices more important than ever before.”

The Conference Board’s report, “Consumers' Attitudes about Data Practices,” captures consumers’ perceptions, preferences, and behaviors when it comes to companies’ practices regarding the collection and usage of personal data. It found that globally, just half of consumers are confident they would recognize “fake news.” In the U.S., 47 percent agree or strongly agree that they would be able to spot fabricated videos, pictures and news items, and that proportion falls to 37 percent in Africa and the Middle East, whereas 54 percent of Asia-Pacific consumers are convinced of their ability to discern fake content.

Worldwide, nearly half of consumers don’t believe customized content is worth being tracked by companies. The report found that 44 percent of consumers globally would be willing to forego customized content—such as personalized messages, offers and experiences—in exchange for not having their personal data collected. U.S. consumers are especially reticent—more than 57 percent would give up customization for greater privacy.

Globally, consumers mostly prefer government-run agencies as the entity to oversee data privacy. However, for consumers in North America and Latin America, private consumer advocacy groups are as popular as government-run consumer protection agencies.