Nearly half of South African consumers (46%) would walk away from an online service provider if it suffered any form of data breach, according to a study of 15 000 consumers worldwide, conducted by global security company Kaspersky.

The idea of avoidable data misuse is likely to incur even greater wrath from respondents, however, with 68% affirming they would no longer use the provider for fear of their data being sold to a third-party in this case. As consumers understand more about businesses’ data privacy responsibilities, more transparency is needed from those companies about how they handle user data.

Having to shop, be entertained, communicate and conduct business virtually is likely to have sparked heightened awareness about how much data is being offered, and what the upshots of this proliferation could be. Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents from South Africa are now worried that their online activities are being constantly tracked by the websites or services they visit.

Not only would 46% of local consumers stop using an online provider if they encountered a breach, but a vast portion are already demanding greater protection of their data ahead of time, from both enterprises and governments. Around two-thirds (63%) affirmed that they want companies to be transparent in their data processing, and 63% think companies should be equally open about how their technology works. A similar 62% called on governments to be transparent about their respective data collection and management processes.

This isn’t to say that consumers are necessarily against the idea of data processing in general. In fact, 75% agree that the apps and digital services they use make their lives substantially easier. However, considering that near one-in-10 (8%) have had their personal data leaked or shared inappropriately by a third party – leading to having secret information revealed (78%) or a loss of money (57%) – additional caution moving forward is understandable.

“It is clear from the data that people have developed a sense of control and they are now demanding openness about how and where their data is being managed. This is something we at Kaspersky absolutely support and champion, having brought to light the significance of transparency in the infosec space. We have recently relocated data processing to Switzerland, and this change of behaviour among consumers will aid our own efforts to make data processing practices more secure and transparent in the future. Businesses should be aware of how detrimental it would be to brand reputation to ignore these calls,” says Marina Titova, head of consumer product marketing at Kaspersky.