Despite GDPR enforcement only a matter of hours away, Mintel finds that even young consumers - who are generally more relaxed about sharing their data - are similarly worried. An apprehensive two-thirds (66%) of 16- to 24-year-olds limit starting new accounts due to data worries, with anxiety peaking among the 55+ age group (81%).
The safety of their financial data (such as credit cards) causes Brits the biggest consternation, as 87% say they are concerned about sharing these details with companies. UK consumers are also nervous about the security of their email content (85%), while 73% worry about the security of their web browsing history.
For young people, giving away their location is also a major concern, with 73% of 16- to 24-year-olds saying so, compared to 69% of Brits overall. This is the only data sharing category that this age group was more anxious about than the population as a whole.
Mintel senior technology analyst Adrian Reynolds said: "The increasing use of connected devices to access websites and apps is producing a wealth of personal data sharing, making it very difficult for consumers to keep track. For many, limiting further exposure is their preferred option. Even young people, while more willing to create new accounts with companies, are sufficiently concerned about data sharing and most are limiting new account creation.
"The GDPR regulations will usher in a new data sharing landscape giving consumers far greater autonomy over their personal information. GDPR will also provide opportunities for brands to reduce consumers' concerns. If they are shown exactly how their data is used, given the option to remove material that was previously stored and feel they have more autonomy over its future use, then consumers will be more receptive to creating new accounts."
The report also finds that over half (52%) of UK consumers do not feel confident about how much data they are sharing online, rising to 54% of those aged 34 to 44 and 59% of those aged 55 to 64.
Meanwhile, a cautious eight in ten (81%) Brits avoid sharing personal data with companies they are aware have been compromised by cyber-attacks, with 79% of 16- to 24-year-olds and 89% of those aged 55+ opting for this safety-first approach.
"Most consumers understandably don't want to share data with companies that have been compromised in cyber-attacks. If such an attack occurs, consumers want to be made aware of exactly what data has been compromised, why and what efforts are being taken to avoid it happening again. Otherwise, companies risk losing customers permanently, or at least losing access to data following the implementation of GDPR. As consumers become more aware of the extent of information held about them, alongside their ability to have it removed, reports of data breaches are likely to have a more detrimental impact for companies beyond just fines," Reynolds added.
There are also wide regional variations. Londoners are the most likely to feel comfortable sharing their data if they receive regular updates on how it is being used (59%), while the Welsh (45%) are the least convinced. Overall 52% of Brits would be happy with this. Younger people have a more relaxed attitude, with 65% of 16- to 24-year-olds willing to share their data in this way.
Overall, four in ten (40%) 16- to 24-year-olds would be encouraged to share more personal data with companies if they were offered free samples based on products they have viewed or purchased. This is double the number of those aged 55+ (20%) and compares to 30% of the population as a whole. Meanwhile, a third (34%) of Brits feel most comfortable sharing data on laptops and a quarter (25%) are happy to do so on smartphones, rising to half (49%) of 16- to 24-year-olds.
Reynolds concluded: "GDPR offers companies the chance to change mindsets on data sharing, with more upfront and transparent communications over the extent of data usage. Brands must highlight the benefits of data sharing through tailored promotions, while also instilling trust.
"As consumers gain a better understanding of the financial value of their data and become more comfortable sharing personal information, incentives will play an increasingly important role. This is especially the case for young consumers, who have grown up with smartphones and are generally more tech savvy. They are more likely to use GDPR to their advantage, or at least be quick to remove data from companies they do not trust."