The controversy surrounding the privacy and safety of social networking seems to be everywhere in the media nowadays, and there is certainly no shortage of advice on how to best manage one’s online presence. Given the persistent debates, we used the opportunity of Data Privacy Day to take a fresh look at consumer attitudes towards privacy and sharing straight from our own Truth Central data.

In 2011, when we launched our inaugural Truth about Privacy research (followed by refreshes in both 2013 and 2015), we created a consumer segmentation, revealing two ends of the sharing spectrum: the so-called ‘Eager Extroverts’ and ‘Walled Warriors.’ The stereotypical smartphone junkie teen falls into the former category, those who are present on numerous social networks, with hundreds of followers and friends on each, and dozens of online posts/interactions a week. The Walled Warriors, on the other hand, are wary of sharing on social networks, and go to great lengths to keep their data private.

While these segments represent the two extremes of privacy behavior, it’s those people in the middle that demonstrate truly complicated relationships with online privacy. According to 2015 Truth Central data, a significant proportion of the population is caught in a tangle of contradictions, dealing with both a fear of the erosion of personal privacy and the appeal of sharing personal information online.

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The identity crisis in the middle is real: 45% of people around the world agree that it is important to build a positive image of oneself online. At the same time, over half of these people (53%) say that they have regretted something that they’ve put online and later tried to delete it.

However, a full two-thirds of them would be willing to share their data so long as they understand the benefits they will receive, but 76% are also worried by the erosion of personal privacy due to the increased use of technology.

So what do we make of this conflicted group? Given their “swing vote” attitude towards privacy and data, there is tremendous opportunity for brands to help guide them to use their data safely. This group recognizes that sharing data can be advantageous, but are reticent to do so because of privacy issues. Brands that are able to provide tangible compensation while granting a greater degree of control over the data will be the ones that win over people’s trust in these days of privacy breaches and public mistrust.

The time is now to address privacy issues, since these conflicted sharers tend to live in high-growth emerging markets such as India, China and the Philippines, and tend to skew younger (in other words, the demographic with much of the spending power in the future). Brands would do well to take notice.

To learn more about privacy around the world, and the cultural differences among countries when it comes to connections, socializing and sharing, please contact us at truthcentral@mccann.com.


Truth Central is McCann Worldgroup’s global thought leadership and consumer intelligence unit. The quantitative data for the Truth About Privacy was gathered through an online questionnaire fielded in 18 countries, surveying 33,000+ people. It was conducted in 2015.