Snowden Anniversary shows Brits distrust big business’ use of their data

But happily snoop on each other


• Over half of people (52%) state they've been put off a service because of the information they've been asked to share • While two thirds (65%) confirm they worry about how much data online services collect from them • But nearly half (47%) of 18-24 year olds have confessed to reading someone’s messages without permission A year on from Edward Snowden’s famous leaks, a study by the file-transfer service, WeTransfer, finds that data capture continues to be at the top of Brits’ minds. People are increasingly concerned about how companies are using data that they freely share online, yet they are quite comfortable snooping on others both on and offline.

The survey showed how concerned we are about big business, with:

  • Three quarters (73%) stating they're worried about what companies do with that information;

  • Two thirds (64%) see data collection as an invasion of their privacy;

  • A third (35%) stated they're concerned about what kind of information companies are selling on and the same number described themselves as ‘annoyed’ someone is making a profit out of them.

Meanwhile, the influence of Snowden has been profound, as:

  • 1 in 5 (20%) see having to share their data as restricting their freedom;

  • Over a quarter (27%) have concerns about governmental monitoring; but

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans are even more concerned about governmental monitoring, as nearly a third (31%) voice their concerns.

Yet, it’s one rule for big business and another for us. According to the report, many of us are natural snoopers, and social media has helped to facilitate our inquisitiveness. In spite of our concerns about what information companies have on us and sell, we as individuals are still happy to snoop on other people.

In fact, nearly half (47%) of people who’ve grown up in an era of social media and text messaging (18-24 year olds) have confessed to reading messages without permission, compared to only 1 in 10 (9%) people over 55. Women are the more curious sex, as 33% confess to reading messages without permission, compared to just over 1 in 4 men (27%).

Even though we’re routinely ticking boxes to confirm we’ve read Ts&Cs, almost 4 in 5 (78%) state they never or only rarely read them, with the number rising to 83% for 25-34 year olds.

Additionally, 1 in 6 Brits (16%) went as far as saying they wouldn't use a service that sells on their information, with those over 55 most likely to say no to a service making a profit out of them (22%). But if they can see a kick back, 14% Brits said they wouldn't mind if they got part of the profit.


It’s been a year since Edward Snowden leaked several highly classified documents and there’s been a constant stream of new stories revealing aspects of snooping, phone hacking and data collection since. It’s therefore no surprise that consumers are worried about their data, how it’s being used and where it ends up. As a result, it’s crucial for the tech industry to regain the trust of the people who use their services, as well as redefine the use of data in the digital age. At WeTransfer there’s no requirement to give away tons of data or spend time filling in forms; you can transfer files online straight away with the click of a button. Trust is the keyword, and we can happily say we are used by governments, royalty and other institutions. Our continued growth reflects the success of this approach.


Bas Beerens, CEO WeTransfer