UK internet users overwhelmingly mistrust US firms over data protection

Europe under GDPR
UK internet users overwhelmingly mistrust US firms over data protection

Despite GDPR being applicable to any company operating in Europe, a recent survey by European email provider GMX, found that nearly three quarters of internet users in the UK are ‘concerned’ or are ‘somewhat concerned’ about storing private data with US companies. That marks a sharp increase on the previous survey in 2016, which showed just 35% of internet users in the UK with at least a partial concern. 

It’s perhaps unsurprising that there has been a sharp increase in data privacy concerns, following a number of scandals that have occurred over the last few years. Major companies such as Equifax, Yahoo, Facebook and Marriott International have all suffered significant data breaches in the years since 2016, and there’s been a general heightened awareness of data privacy since GDPR was enacted into law last year. 

“The survey shows that Brits are increasingly aware of data protection issues. One reason is the comprehensive access rights of the US government to personal data stored by US companies. And data protection scandals like the illegal personally identifiable information gathering by Cambridge Analytica are also playing a big part,” says GMX CEO, Jan Oetjen.

Despite the concerns of UK internet users, some US firms have been amongst the most receptive to regulation surrounding data protection. Microsoft may have been stung by a fine under GDPR, but the company has recommended that the US enacts similar legislation in order to protect consumers. Apple has also put data privacy at the heart of its business, having launched an onslaught of ads surrounding its efforts to protect users. 

UK internet users remain unconvinced, however, and according to GMX’s survey some have gone so far as to ditch US online services. 8% of respondents said that they had left a US online service within the last 12 months due to data protection scandals, while a further 11% plan to do so within the next year. 

UK users don’t want to Brexit from GDPR

The survey also shows that the majority of Brits do not want Brexit when it comes to data protection. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is currently included as part of the UK's 2018 Data Protection Act, and 61% are in favour of GDPR continuing to be applied in the United Kingdom after Brexit and going forward. Once outside of the EU, the UK will be given 'third country' status and will need to show its data protection laws are strong enough to gain the EU’s approval, through an ‘adequacy‘ agreement which will ensure the smooth flow of data to and from the EU.