Sharing Personal Data Online: Italians’ Stands in Pre-COVID19 Times

Sharing personal data on digital platforms worries 45.4% of Italians, but, at the same time, 38.4% recognize that their personal information is valuable for many data collectors. In addition, 41.1% of Italians do not like the current privacy practices applied by many data collectors while there are many people who still don’t know how their online shared data is being used.

The location data is not shared willingly by Italians, and when they do, they trust navigation apps the most. WhatsApp is the company that raises the least concerns regarding the protection of sensitive data (50.7%), while almost one in five Italians has received spam from unknown companies in the last two/three years.

Concerns about sharing personal information are shared by citizens all over the world, with differences and nuances that distinguish the various countries.

This is what emerges from the latest research – conducted in Italy by BVA Doxa and interntionally by WIN network, in collaboration with ESOMAR – relating to people’s attitudes when they are called to share their personal data with companies, especially in the digital context. The data was collected in October-December 2019, before the onset of the health emergency linked to COVID-19.

ITALIANS ON SHARING PERSONAL INFORMATION ONLINE – We live in a society increasingly more dependent on digital and online platforms and services; in Italy, almost half of the interviewees are concerned about sharing their personal information online (45.4% [1] agree with this statement, against 6,7% who disagree). In addition, there is less consensus when it comes to consider sharing personal information as vital and necessary to participate in the connected and digitized world: 18.3% of Italians agree, while the share of those who disagree reaches 23.1%, which partly justifies the concerns previously expressed.

Furthermore, 38.4% of Italians recognize that personal information has value for many data collectors, as opposed to 8.6% who do not recognize this potential. As for the data collectors’ privacy rules, 41.1% of respondents do not like the current practices (vs 6.3%), and many people don’t know how their personal information is used after it has been shared online: 25.8% declare they are aware of what happens, while 16.1% have no idea (with over 58% having a partial awareness).

CAREFUL IN SHARING THEIR LOCATION ONLINE – When considering sharing their location, 31.7% of Italians say they almost never share it when requested, 22.5% affirms, however, that it has never been requested, while respectively 18.8% and 17.7% claim to have shared it rarely and sometimes. Those who share it most often are in a clear minority (9.3%)

People are more willing to share their personal location to make use of a service when it comes to navigation apps (31% of Italians consider it very and quite likely), while it drops when it comes to social media (19%), car sharing companies (11%) and streaming services such as Netflix (11%).

WHATSAPP: THE MOST TRUSTED COMPANY – At the top of the ranking of companies that Italians trust the most when it comes to keeping their data private there is Whatsapp (50.7%), followed by Google (41.8%), Apple (36.3 %), Amazon and Youtube (both 35.8%) and Facebook (33.7%). A the bottom of the ranking we find Instagram (29.1%) and Twitter (23.4%).

ALMOST ONE ITALIAN OUT OF FIVE RECEIVED SPAM FROM UNKNOWN COMPANIES – When considering data misuse, in the last two-three years 18.6% of Italians have happened to receive spam from companies with which they never had contact before. This is followed by phishing (14.8%), unauthorized disclosure of personal data (8.1%), email hacking (5.2%) and bank account or credit card hacking (3,8%).

A GLOBAL PICTURE – When considering other countries in the world, it becomes clear how the concerns about sharing personal information online are shared by many citizens all over the world, especially in Brazil and India (70%), the United States (69%), Mexico and South Africa (60%). Among the European countries, Greece (58%), Finland (57%) and Ireland (54%) are among the most worried countries, while Germany (41%) and Sweden (35%) are among the least worried. Globally, 42% of people are aware that their personal information is important for data collectors, but only 22% worldwide consider sharing their personal data as vital and necessary in our connected and digitalized world. This would suggest that many consumers consider data collection to be a one-sided issue: it is valuable for companies, but overall it is not considered critical.

In addition, on a global level, only 25.7% of citizens are aware of what happens to their personal information after sharing it with a data collector. Furthermore, Europe ranks first among the continents that do not appreciate the privacy policies currently in force for data collection, at +6 percentage points from the global average: 46% of Europeans do not appreciate them, compared to 40% in the Americas, 35% in Africa and APAC, and 34% in the MENA region.

Vilma Scarpino, President of WIN and CEO of BVA Doxa commented the results of the study:  “The digitalization of our lives grows exponentially in the current context. Although people recognize the value of technology, they are concerned about sharing their personal information, and the level of trust among different players in this market is low. Despite the different levels of concerns according to age or education that this global survey shows, interesting differences can be analyzed in greater depth in the results by country.”

[1] Respondents were asked to indicate their opinion on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is “completely disagree” and 10 is “completely agree”. The “agree” percentages reported here are the results of the values 8,9,10 summed up, while the percentage of those who disagree are the results of the values 1,2,3.

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