Two recent news events had us thinking about consumer attitudes towards online privacy.

The first event: the recent congressional passage of the USA Freedom Act, which followed the expiration of several key provisions of the Patriot Act and which sparked a new round of debate between civil libertarians and national security hawks about the tradeoffs between freedom from government prying and security from terrorist threats.

The second event: the massive data breach of the Federal government that may have compromised the personal data of at least 4 million current and former federal employees. Following on the heels of several high-profile data breaches of U.S. retailers and financial institutions, consumers could be forgiven for wondering if a return to the pre-internet days of paper records and personal signatures might not be for the better.

Given this recent spate of news, we wondered, what can their values and behaviors tell us about the 12 million U.S. adults who are both engaged with online privacy as an issue and consider themselves in favor of internet privacy regulations?

This group skews young, with a plurality (20%) ages 25-34, and skews liberal, over-indexing on such political issues as government regulation (165% more likely to favor than the online population) civil liberties (50% more likely to favor), and alternative energy (48% more likely to favor). So far, about what you’d expect.

Online Privacy

Also no surprise: For a group concerned with online privacy, they are surprisingly active online.

Online Privacy (2)

64 percent spend at least 20 hours per week online; 28 percent spend 40 or more. They are more likely than the general population to spend daily time on Google+ (139 index), YouTube (135), and Instagram (135). They’re even slightly more likely to shop online (110). For all that this group values online anonymity, they certainly do actively pursue their digital lives.
What most fascinates us about this audience? That at Resonate we can explore the motivations behind their behavior to understand why online privacy advocates spend so much time online. Looking at their values and motivations, we can see that they over-index on seeking personal knowledge, self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, and personal freedom. These values make them active online seekers, and their desire for self-improvement through online activity trumps their concerns about privacy.

To engage with this audience, deliver messages that reinforce the sense of self-discovery they crave in their online relationships. At the same time, convey explicitly your promise to collect and use data responsibly. And most of all, consider yourself a bastion of protecting the sanctity of your customers’ personal data. That way, when the latest data breach or government snooping story hits the wire, you’ll have earned their trust.