Valuing online privacy
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About the study

Microsoft Advertising, IPG Mediabrands, and The Future Laboratory partnered to research the future of digital behavior and technology. Our mission? To track emerging digital consumer trends among early adopters as well as regular and heavy Internet users. We examined awareness and engagement with trends, and evaluated behavior and attitudes toward technology. Eight fascinating trends emerged from the study, one of which is Right to Anonymity.

About Right to Anonymity

The more we depend on technology and integrate it into our lives, the more we want to own our digital footprints. The right to control personal information and how long it lives on the Internet is a hot topic. This study looked at how consumers feel about the information they share online.

Key takeaways

Global online consumers are increasingly aware of their ability and right to delete their digital footprint. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they’d be interested in using a service that allows them to remove information and set life spans for every piece of information they upload. Banking and financial services, pharmaceuticals, and technology and mobile brands should seize the opportunity to show consumers they value and protect privacy. Furthermore, the conversation around privacy continues to draw different global voices, from politicians to film stars, academics and brands, and from mature and emerging markets.

What’s evolving

Since the Right to Anonymity study was conducted, new insights have emerged about this trend and how it’s changing.

  • For consumers, their need for privacy and anonymity has never been greater in mature markets as confidence continues to fall. The wider privacy debate has escalated into one concerning civil liberties and polarized political agendas, particularly in the wake of revelations from whistleblowers, news of security breaches, government surveillance and disinformation campaigns.
  • Companies and brands are now viewing privacy as a selling point and “privacy by design” is becoming a hot topic for designers. “’Privacy by design’ and ‘security by design’ will be part of new business models in the future,” says Josh Galper, chief policy officer at Personal.
  • With regard to behavior online, the trend is evolving among those aged 14 to 24 — the victims of Sharenting. For this age group, privacy and anonymity means creating a “distinction between their voice and their identity,” according to The Intelligence Group’s autumn/winter 2013 Cassandra Report.
  • 55% of this age group in the US don’t like that things last forever online, according to the same report, evidence that we are moving from a share-it-all culture to a more selective sharing one.
  • “This generation has grown up with their information exposed,” according to Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group. “If you are 14 or 15 now, then your parents will have put out all your information. These young people don’t have any control of it.” Increasingly, the control they seek is being found through more temporal digital engagements.
  • Snapchat has grown in popularity — it now has 26 million active users in the US alone — and it has now been joined by more chat and photo-sharing services including Blink, Whisper, Burn Note and 355 million monthly users between the third and fourth quarters of 2013. Each is making a new ephemeral space in online communication. We don’t yet know whether this is driven by a need for freedom, to be silly, or a desire to be forgotten. Either way, temporality is a growing trend.

In the future

  • The Blackphone, due to be launched in June 2014, will herald a new breed of device that places privacy and anonymity at the core of the functionality and experience.
  • The nature of “social” will become distinctly temporal as the need for control and freedom online is likely to become a consumer priority.
  • The lighter, sillier side of the internet and social networking will capture the imagination of more digital natives: Generation D, born between 1995 and 2002, and Generation I, born after 2002.


What this means for brands

  • Be the brand that changes the perception of privacy for consumers, from hard power politics to positive, consumer-friendly and value-driven conversations.
  • Take the lead from fashion brands and harness the power of ephemeral chat and photo-sharing services and the attraction of more temporal interactions.
  • Become comfortable with transient, fleeting and temporary acts of loyalty from consumers. Offer more temporary engagements that meet their needs and ultimately drive trust.


Pixelhead by Martin Backes
Download the research report
Download the research report