LONDON: Domestic banks and financial institutions are among the bodies that people are most prepared to trust with their data a new survey has found, but even then less than a quarter of consumers in the UK and US trusted them a lot.

A report from the Global Research Business Network, which connects 38 national research associations, on attitudes to personal and sensitive data, based on a survey of over 1,000 individuals in each country, revealed that 20% of consumers did not trust local banks at all, while 56% trusted them "somewhat" or didn't know and just 24% trusted them "a lot".

Retailers with loyalty card programs fared slightly worse, with 26% of respondents not trusting them at all, while 64% were in the somewhat/don't know category and a mere 10% felt totally confident.

The report also highlighted widespread consumer distrust in internet search engines, social media companies and mobile phone operators. Across UK and US citizens, 38% said they had no trust in how internet search engines such as Google and Bing were using their data, while 53% said they had no trust in social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

Foreign media companies and foreign online stores were least trusted, with 64% and 58% respectively, saying they didn't trust them at all.

Jane Frost, chief executive officer of the Market Research Society (MRS), part of the Global Research Business Network, said the findings were "a wake-up call for companies to commit to ethical data use or risk jeopardising relationships with their customers".

With market research companies also being widely suspected – 41% of respondents didn't trust them at all – she was speaking to the members of her own organisation as well when she called for data security to be a corporate responsibility rather than one hived off to IT.

She further pointed out that "familiarity with how data is used doesn't equate to trust and telling people it is happening, doesn't mean they're happy about it".

There was, said Andrew Cannon, President of EFAMRO, the European part of the Global Research Business Network, a need for regulation to protect consumers from abuse, but he thought organisations had a responsibility to lead the way, and to be more transparent in their activities in order to earn trust.

Data sourced from Global Research Business Network; additional content by Warc staff