Anxious Consumers Feeling Exposed Online and Willing to Undergo ‘Digital Detox’

  • Deep concerns about sharing information online revealed
  • Digital Britain seeking digital detox, especially overwhelmed millennials
  • Financial institutions most trusted, technology companies least, with personal information
  • Companies encouraged to prioritise cybersecurity and educate consumers

LONDON--()--Consumers are fearful about their online security, with more than a third (37 percent) willing to take themselves “off the grid” to protect their privacy. This is the top line finding of Britain’s Digital DNA, a new report featuring a UK-wide survey of over 1,500 consumers by global management consultancy, Oliver Wyman.

The report, conducted to explore the public’s digital behaviour and attitudes to technology, reveals that nearly half (45 percent) of British adults are worried about sharing their personal information online. However, nearly one third (32 percent) feel obliged or have to do so in order to navigate modern life, with over half (54 percent) saying that they couldn’t live without the internet for more than a day and 12 percent for more than an hour.

Overwhelmed millennials claim they are most in need of a digital detox, with nearly a third (31 percent) of 18–34 year olds actively seeking out opportunities to go offline, compared to only 20 percent of those aged 35–54 and 14 percent of those aged 55-74.

The report comes just ten days after the Investigatory Powers Act was passed into law, widening the Government’s digital surveillance powers. The passing of the new law, dubbed by its critics as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ is likely to further increase consumer fears about privacy online.

Chris McMillan, Partner, Oliver Wyman Labs – the data and technology arm of the business, said:

“It appears our digital addiction runs deep, but with this comes anxiety about privacy – so much so that Brits, especially overwhelmed millennials, are willing to undergo a ‘digital detox’; avoiding emails and texts. The recent passing of the Investigatory Powers Act, as well as news about new data breaches will only bring this worry into greater focus. Businesses need to do more to protect private data, and educate consumers on what the data they collect is being used for.”

Financial institutions top the survey as the most trusted companies with our personal information, with technology companies being the least trusted:

The most trusted companies with personal information are:

  • Financial institutions (only 11 percent don’t trust them)
  • Healthcare providers or insurers (13 percent don’t trust them)
  • Car or home insurers (17 percent don’t trust them)

The least trusted companies with personal information are:

  • Technology companies – e.g. e-commerce sites and search engines (37 percent don’t trust them)
  • Supermarkets or grocers (31 percent don’t trust them)
  • Mobile phone operators (27 percent don’t trust them)

McMillan continues, “For consumers to embrace our digital future without fear and anxiety, companies across all sectors need to prioritise cyber security. They also need to act fast when there are breaches. Financial institutions are the most trusted in our survey because they put a lot of investment into educating consumers about the security measures they take to protect them, assuaging the worry many of us feel when handing over our personal information.”

Other public concerns over digital and technology revealed by the survey include:

Social isolation

The survey revealed that men between aged between 25 and 34 are missing out most human contact, with 43 percent of male respondents in that age bracket admitting that social media prevents them from seeing their friends as much as they would like. This is compared to 32 percent of women in the same age group and an average of 22 percent across all age groups.

Feeling left behind by technology

Nearly a third (31 percent) of the UK admitted that they can’t keep up with new technology. The feeling of being ‘left behind’ by new developments appears to be as acute for under 24s as it is for those in middle age. The survey revealed that 29 percent of 18-24 year olds feel out of touch with the latest technology, the same number as those aged between 55 and 64.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 50+ cities across 26 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm's 4,000 professionals help clients optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE:MMC]. For more information, visit Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.

About the research:

A survey of 1,560 consumers in the United Kingdom was carried out by Innofact in October 2016, on behalf of global management consultancy Oliver Wyman.


For Oliver Wyman:
Lucy Chapple, 0203 696 5800
Millie Daly, 0203 696 5800


For Oliver Wyman:
Lucy Chapple, 0203 696 5800
Millie Daly, 0203 696 5800