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GRBN Study Reveals Widespread Concern Over Personal Data Security

Tuesday, February 25, 2014  
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February 25, 2014

Almost a third of US and UK citizens do not trust governments with their personal data

Report reveals fears about data protection and misuse

A new report from the Global Research Business Network (GRBN) on attitudes to personal and sensitive data has revealed that, on average, almost a third (31%) of US and UK citizens do not trust their domestic government with their personal data. The report, which is based on a survey of over 2000 individuals, also highlights consumer distrust in internet search engines, social media companies, and mobile phone operators.

Although people are reasonably familiar with how personal data is collected and used, there is still a high level of concern with 45% of US citizens and 40% of people living in the UK, saying they are very concerned about how their data is used.

Consumer concern about data protection is a shared experience on both sides of the pond. The report reveals that consumers have low levels of trust in many types of organizations. Across US and UK citizens, 38% said they had no trust in how internet search engines such as Google and Bing are using their data, 53% of people said they had no trust in social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, and 41% said they didn’t trust market research companies. US and UK citizens are also distrusting of their respective security services with 36% of Americans saying they do not trust the National Security Agency (NSA) at all and 29% of people in the UK saying they don’t trust their Intelligence services.

Despite well-documented data breaches by banks and resentment following the credit crunch, the results show banks and financial organizations were more trusted than the US and UK governments – almost a quarter of people (24%) across the US and the UK claim to have significant trust in banks or other financial institutions using their data.

Jane Frost CBE, chief executive officer of the UK-based Market Research Society (MRS), part of the Global Research Business Network, comments: "The report is a wake-up call for companies to commit to ethical data use or risk jeopardizing relationships with their customers. It is time for organizations to take a serious look at data security in a more rounded context. It needs to be a corporate responsibility, not just delegated to IT.

"Familiarity with how data is used doesn’t equate to trust and telling people it is happening doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. The National Health Service (NHS) is a good example of this – more than three quarters (76%) of people said they considered their health records to be sensitive data – this should be an important consideration for the NHS when it is reviewing its care data-sharing scheme.”

Jeffrey T. Resnick, 2012 Board Chair of CASRO, the US national research trade association and part of the Global Research Business Network, comments: "Sensitivity of personal data is a big issue for consumers. This research shows that there is a high level of distrust from consumers about how their personal data is used. As they hear more about data security breaches and develop a fuller understanding of the implications of the technology they are using, this concern is only going to grow. Governments and businesses cannot afford to stick their heads in the sand and hope it goes away – it won’t.”

Andrew Cannon, President of EFAMRO, the European part of the Global Research Business Network, comments: "While regulation is needed to protect citizens from abuse, I believe that organizations have a responsibility to lead the way, to be more transparent in their activities and earn the trust of citizens. For the sake of democracy, governments and government organizations need to prove their trustworthiness.

"It is clear that the market research sector also needs to more effectively demonstrate its commitment to protecting personal privacy because the study revealed that 41% of those surveyed don’t trust market research companies.”

Diane Bowers, President of CASRO, comments: "As a global network which seeks to promote and advance the position of research, GRBN, along with regional federations and national associations, has vowed to work hard to significantly improve the level of trust by strengthening self-regulation and supporting trust marks such as MRS’ Fair Data and CASRO’s Seal of Integrity.”


Notes to editors

About the research

Based on an original study conducted in Finland by CBI Cannon Business Insight, this research was conducted online between the 6th and 9th of February 2014 by Research Now and includes data from 1020 UK interviews and 1015 US interviews (weighted to be representative of the population aged 18+ in each country).

About The Global Research Business Network

The Global Research Business Network connects 38 national research associations and over 3,500 research businesses on five continents which generate US$25 billion in annual research revenues.

GRBN’s mission is to promote and advance the business of research by developing and supporting strong autonomous national research associations. This is done by:

  • Sharing information and expertise to strengthen and develop national associations to deliver value to their members;
  • Promoting development of research technologies and insights through creating additional opportunities for cross-border exchanges amongst research associations, communities and businesses;
  • Promoting international ethical and quality standards;
  • Promoting effective self regulation at the national level and developing solutions to resolve complaints about multi-country and cross-border projects;
  • Developing guidance on cross-border trade issues such as outsourcing and sub-contracting;
  • Identifying needs and potential partnerships between national associations.

More information on the Global Research Business Network is available from Additional information about this "GRBN Survey on Attitudes to Personal and Sensitive Data” can be found on the "Initiatives” section of the GRBN website.

Information on the federations and their member associations are available from their websites:


The European Federation of Associations of Market Research Organisations (EFAMRO) is the European federation of market, social and opinion research agency trade associations –the voice of the European market research sector. EFAMRO was founded in 1992.

EFAMRO’s mission is to:

  • Influence legislation and public opinion in favour of research
  • Promote best practice
  • Enforce compliance with the principles of international standards
  • Advise the European research industry
  • Publish information about the European research industry

About MRS

  • The UK is the world’s second largest research market.
  • With members in more than 60 countries, MRS is the world’s leading research association.
  • It has a diverse membership of individuals at all levels of experience and seniority within agencies, consultancies, support services, client-side organisations, the public sector and the academic community.
  • MRS represents 80% of research agencies who commit to, and are regulated by, the MRS Code of Conduct to ensure professional and ethical research of the highest standard of excellence.
  • In 2013 MRS launched the Fair Data trust mark that demonstrates which organisations handle their customers’ personal data fairly.
  • MRS is the global leader in research qualifications and training.
  • Winners of the Launch of the Year prize at the International Content Marketing Awards 2013 for ImpactMagazine, the quarterly publication of the Market Research Society and sister title

For more information on MRS and its activities, please visit its website at

Founded in 1975, CASRO represents more than 300 companies and market and opinion research operations in the United States and abroad.

CASRO is the "Voice and Values” of the research industry

  • We promote a rigorous code of standards that enhances the image and integrity of research and protects the public's rights and privacy
  • We advocate our industry's effective self-regulation when legislators propose bills that threaten legitimate market and opinion research
  • We champion legitimate research companies and marginalize disreputable research "pretenders” who threaten to tarnish the industry's reputation and alienate research participants

CASRO requires members to adhere to the CASRO Code of Standards and Ethics, a tough, internationally-cited set of standards, which has long been the benchmark for the industry.

Member companies are provided numerous benefits, including access to expert legal and business advice, inclusion in our member directory, a tailored
professional liability insurance program, unique industry data, and objective staff training and networking opportunities at webinars, workshops and conferences throughout the year.

Media contacts

MRS: Rhianna Brien or Emma Phelan on Tel: 020 7636 7366

Email: or

CASRO: Art Flanagan, 631.928.6954 or

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