Online privacy and security has always been a concern for internet users and the issue has gained further prominence in the past year due to revelations about governments spying on their citizens.

A new survey shows the scale of the mistrust, as nine out of ten (89%) British internet users admitted to being worried about online privacy. 

The results from the TRUSTe research have remained consistent for the past three years, suggesting that the ecommerce industry hasn’t been able to allay fears about online security.

More than a third of respondents in the survey said that they are ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ worried about their online privacy.

For details of similar surveys into online privacy, download the Econsultancy Internet Statistics Compendium.

Breaking the results down by different online activities shows that privacy concerns remain high no matter what the user is doing.

Online shopping continues to be the activity that causes the greatest levels of concern with 88% of British consumers worried about their privacy when shopping online, compared with 88% in January 2013.

However banking (88%), social media (86%) and mobile apps (86%) also instil similar levels of concern among internet users.

Main concerns

According to the survey 60% of people say they are more concerned about security now than they were a year ago, though in reality that’s impossible to quantify.

Even so, all the respondents who indicated that security had become more of a concern were asked which issues worried them the most.

It turns out that businesses sharing personal information with other companies (60%) and tracking online behaviour to show targeted ads and content (54%) were the two largest causes of increased online privacy concerns.

A further 27% were concerned about the privacy policies of Facebook and other social media networks, and 21% were concerned about privacy policies of Google and other search engines.

Despite the constant media coverage of US government surveillance programmes such as the NSA’s PRISM, only 20% listed this as a reason for their increase in privacy concerns.

Finally, respondents were asked to what extent they agreed with the statement ‘I trust most companies with my personal information online’. 5% ‘strongly agreed’ and 50% ‘somewhat agreed’ with this statement, while 34% ‘somewhat disagreed’ and 11% ‘strongly disagreed’.

The TRUSTe research was conducted from 13 to 18 December 2013. More than 2,000 GB adults aged 16-75 took part in the survey.