Has lockdown made consumers more open to privacy?

By Angela Saverice-Rohan

EY Americas Privacy Leader

Promotes cross-functional teamwork. Calm and steady in crisis. Wicked sense of humor. Mother of two.

5 minute read 23 Nov 2020

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  • Has Lockdown made consumers more open to privacy - EY Global consumer Privacy Survey 2020 (pdf)

Findings from the EY Global Consumer Privacy Survey reveal that the pandemic is shifting consumers’ expectations of data privacy. 

In brief
  • COVID-19 has rapidly increased reliance on digital services and platforms, reshaping consumers’ attitudes toward personal data privacy and altering their behavior.
  • Organizations must understand how consumer expectations have changed, what they want in exchange for their data and what this means for the future of data privacy.
  • To adapt and thrive in the new data privacy landscape, businesses must align their policies with consumer expectations.

There is no going back. In less than 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly and abruptly consolidated our reliance on digital services and platforms. In this new reality, consumers are rethinking what they expect in exchange for their personal data.

The resulting message for organizations is clear: to meet the expectations of today’s consumers and anticipate their future needs, it is time to rethink data privacy.

Our latest research, the EY Global Consumer Privacy Survey, aims to help organizations understand how those needs are evolving by examining consumers’ attitudes toward personal data sharing and analyzing the ways in which their behavior is changing. 

In particular, we address three critical questions, which we believe are shaping a new era in data privacy:

  1. The expectation: how do consumers expect organizations to treat their data?
  2. The exchange: what do consumers want in return for their data?
  3. The evolution: how is data privacy shifting for a post-pandemic world?

So what do businesses need to know? Here, we give an overview of the new data privacy landscape and outline three important ways in which business leaders can navigate it.

1. Deliver the certainty consumers crave

Despite an uncertain outlook, the pandemic has cemented consumers’ resolve to have control over their personal data. When we asked them what is most important when they choose to share their personal data with an organization, the majority point to secure collection and storage (63%), control over what data is being shared (57%) and trust in the company collecting their data (51%).

“Post COVID-19, consumer expectations of companies have not changed – they expect them to respect their privacy,” says Angela Saverice-Rohan, EY Americas Privacy Leader. However, while the desire for privacy remains a constant, the pandemic has increased levels of consumer data privacy awareness: 54% of consumers say that COVID-19 has made them more aware of the personal data they share than they were before the pandemic, and consumers are much more likely to point to COVID-19 as a driver of data privacy awareness than they are regulatory changes, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) (43% compared with 25%).

Younger generations are more trusting with their data


of Millennials say they are willing to share their search history in exchange for more personalized online experiences, compared with 23% of Baby Boomers.

The data also shows how important generational differences are emerging. “Younger generations are much more aware of privacy and sharing data – and the impact of data and technology – than older generations,” says Kris Lovejoy, EY Global Cybersecurity Leader. This is borne out by our research findings: Millennials (53%) and Generation Z (47%) are more likely than Generation X (43%) and Baby Boomers (35%) to always or often take the time to understand how a company uses their personal data by reading available materials.

Show resources

  • Download the Global Consumer Privacy Survey 2020

2. Tailor offerings to build trust

For organizations, the ability to build trust with consumers is a huge opportunity. For consumers, much of that trust depends on the perceived value they receive in exchange for their personal data. “It's about both transparency and value exchange,” says de Bos. “That's how companies should look at this going forward: ‘How transparent am I about the data I collect? What do I share back?’”

Perhaps as a result of their increased awareness, younger consumers share their data more freely. For instance, half of Millennial consumers (50%) say they are willing to share their search history with a large tech company in exchange for more personalized search results and online experiences, compared with less than a quarter of Baby Boomers (23%).

By contrast, the older generations place a premium on controlling who can access their data. Two-thirds (66%) of Baby Boomers say a lack of control over third-party access to data decreases the level of trust they place in an organization. That is the highest rate of all the generations in the study.

3. Navigate a new privacy landscape

Not only has the pandemic increased consumer data privacy awareness, it is also ushering in a new normal for data exchange – one that is based on shared assumptions, values and experiences. Saverice-Rohan explains why this is: "Reopening the economy and getting people back into the office, into stores and into schools have and will require new collection of personal information,” she says.

Half of consumers (50%) say that the pandemic has made them more willing to part with their personal data if they know it is contributing to the research effort and/or community wellness. It remains to be seen whether this presents businesses with a long-term opportunity. “Ultimately, the shelf life of altruism as a motivation will be dependent on the problems that we show we can solve, societally, as a result of that data sharing,” says Saverice-Rohan.

  • About the EY Global Consumer Privacy Survey

    In July and August 2020, EY, together with Longitude, a Financial Times company, surveyed 1,901 consumers across the Americas; Asia Pacific; Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA). 

    The survey questionnaire investigated attitudes and approaches to data privacy and data sharing, expectations of how organizations will use personal data, and how data privacy is expected to change in the post-pandemic world.


The world is adapting to new ways of living and working, with increasing reliance on digital platforms and services, and consumer expectations and data privacy awareness are evolving too. By adapting their privacy policies to align with consumer expectations and meet evolving needs, organizations can stand out from the crowd and build a significant competitive advantage.

About this article

By Angela Saverice-Rohan

EY Americas Privacy Leader

Promotes cross-functional teamwork. Calm and steady in crisis. Wicked sense of humor. Mother of two.