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Online privacy in the United Kingdom (UK) - statistics & facts

Over two years after the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Europe-wide, the United Kingdom (UK) is doing relatively well under the new law. According to a country-to-country comparison of the federal budget allocated to data protection authorities (DPAs) in Europe, the UK topped the list with a hefty 61 million euros having been allocated in 2020 alone. Awareness of the GDPR in the UK is also higher than the EU average, with nearly 80 percent of respondents saying they had heard of it. Interestingly however, the UK also has one of the lowest percentages of survey respondents who claim they actually read terms and conditions when using online services. Here, the majority at 48 percent admitted they did not do so at all.

Companies and GDPR compliance

Businesses have also been adapting to this change. In order to comply with the regulations, financial investments were made - mainly in the area of implementing new processes around the handling of sensitive data. Secondary areas of investment also included data collection auditing and the hiring of compliance staff. How much did this cost? As it turns out, the majority of small businesses in the UK, France, Ireland and Spain had spent between one and ten thousand euros on GDPR compliance in 2019.

Consumer trust

As it turns out, financial rewards and free products or services are the main incentives encouraging consumers to share their personal data with companies. Conversely, charity donations did more to discourage the sharing of information. Healthcare providers (like the NHS) and emergency services inspired more trust in consumers across all age groups. While the younger generations tended to trust universities more, the older generation (55 years and above) trusted banks and credit companies more to handle their personal data ethically. What measures could companies take to begin building more trust with their consumer base? According to a 2020 survey, a ban on the sharing of customer data to third parties by companies would make the most difference. Not too far behind was making it a legal requirement for customers to be informed in the case of a data breach.

Online privacy in a pandemic

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the release of the NHS track and trace app in the UK, over half of those aged 35 to 54 years felt it was very important that any contact tracing app took civil liberties into account and would protect people’s privacy. This sentiment was echoed throughout all age groups. Despite an increasing openness toward data sharing, it is clear that for the majority of the UK public, a respect of privacy as well as transparency in the way their data is being used is paramount.


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