How COVID-19 Affected Data Privacy

The pandemic has made everyone think about data security. Protecting privacy has never been more important. It has been affected by radical changes in all areas of our lives. After months of isolation working, studying, and communicating online is no longer unusual. States and companies are actively collecting our data to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and create an effective environment for working and learning remotely. Test results, geolocations, contacts with others, and general wellness information are data that people share to help fight COVID-19, but many fear that their personal information may not be protected.

Cisco did a “2020 Consumer Privacy Survey” on user privacy during a pandemic. Experts questioned how organizations maintain their customers’ digital trust, how the overall privacy landscape is changing, and how much it impacts people. Cisco’s report is based on responses of more than 2,600 people from 12 countries around the world.

The results of this study show that the importance of privacy to people and businesses is growing rapidly.


  1. COVID-19 and remote working have created new privacy challenges, but users still want their data to be protected.

The coronavirus has forced society to change – switching to working and learning remotely and sharing personal health information. Among respondents, 81% said they currently work or study remotely. At the same time, most of those surveyed do not trust the digital tools they had to use. While some companies were working and learning remotely before the pandemic, this abrupt transition was an issue for the majority. Not everyone was able to quickly navigate and find reliable tools to make the full transition to online. Among those who had worked or studied remotely, 60% said they were concerned about privacy protection.

Respondents also had mixed feelings about sharing personal information, even when it was necessary for the public good. More than half (57%) supported a procedure for verifying employee health information to ensure workplace safety, and only 37% were willing to share information about sick neighbors and coworkers.

Respondents also expressed concern that their data can be used for other purposes or can be shared with third parties.


  1. A third of respondents, so-called Privacy Actives, have stopped doing business with certain companies because they fear for their data security.

Before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), people had almost no influence or rights regarding the collection, processing, storage, and distribution of personal information by companies. But that’s all changed. Many countries have even started enacting their privacy regulations.  Today, more than 120 countries have related laws. Surprisingly, in the last two years, a category of people has emerged, the so-called “Privacy Follower” – those who care about the fate of their private data; those who are actively taking steps to protect it.

Nearly a third of respondents stopped doing business with certain organizations because of data privacy concerns. Lack of confidence in the legitimate use of their data influenced their refusal to cooperate. That refers not only to online companies but also to physical ones, such as banks and stores. If customers’ credibility has been compromised at least once, customers decide not to return.


  1. People expect governments to take the leading role in data protection.

More than half of respondents (56%) believe the government should take the lead in protecting their data. Since people can’t be assured that companies are following their privacy policies, local authorities and government should take responsibility for ensuring data privacy.

53% of respondents were positive about the GDPR and privacy laws in their countries. It also appeared that younger people were more aware of privacy laws than older people. Nearly 50% of those aged 25-34 were aware of one or more data protection laws, compared to 41% of those aged 55-64 and only 31% of those over 75.


  1. People want more transparency on how their data used.

Many users still don’t feel their data is secure. Nearly half of respondents (48%) are not confident in their ability to secure personal information today. The number one reason is the issue of transparency. 79% of respondents said they find it too difficult to understand what companies are doing with their data. Also, more than half of consumers feel that businesses don’t give them a choice, and to use a service or program, you have to share personal information. 45% of those surveyed believe their data has already been compromised.

Consumers want clear, transparent explanations of how and where their data is being used, rather than signing a long agreement document. People want government agencies that regulate privacy to monitor how companies fulfill their responsibilities.

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