Study: Americans Are Concerned About Data Privacy, But Few Take Steps to Protect Themselves

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In June 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the large amounts of data the American government is collecting from ordinary citizens, setting off a new age of what has been referred to as “data insecurity.” Since then, Americans have become increasingly concerned by the amount of information being collected by companies and agencies who seek to gain from it. And with several high profile data breaches also in the news, Americans are taking a deeper look at how their data is being collected, how it’s being used, and whether it’s in truly safe hands.

A Pew Research study last month took a look at how Americans’ attitudes regarding data and privacy have changed in a post-Snowden world. The findings show that “Americans feel privacy is important in their daily lives in a number of essential ways. Yet, they have a pervasive sense that they are under surveillance when in public and very few feel they have a great deal of control over the data that is collected about them and how it is used.” Moreover, and perhaps ironically, many Americans rate privacy with regard to data collection as “very important,” yet few have taken significant steps to protect themselves. This may be, perhaps, due to the fact that there aren’t yet easy, accessible ways for Americans to protect themselves. The data collection conversation remains quite confusing and secretive.

Here are the key findings:

Americans care about data collection.

  • 93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is “important;” 74% feel this is “very important.”

  • 90% say controlling what information gets collected is important, while 65 percent say it’s “very important.”

Please ask permission. 

The thought of being identified in public is a little less worrisome.

Trust is low.  

  • 6% of adults say they are “very confident” that government agencies can keep their records private and secure.

  • 9% of adults are “very confident” that credit card companies will be able to protect our data.

  • 76% of adults say they are “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that records of their activity maintained by the online advertisers who place ads on the websites they visit will remain private and secure.

  • 69% of adults say they are not confident that records of their activity maintained by the social media sites they use will remain private and secure.

Many have taken small steps to protect themselves…

  • Clearing cookies or browser history (59% have done this).

  • Refusing to provide information about themselves that wasn’t relevant to a transaction (57% have done this).

  • Using a temporary username or email address (25% have done this).

But few have explored larger measures.

  • 10% of adults say they have encrypted their phone calls, text messages or email.

  • 9% say they have used a service that allows them to browse the Web anonymously, such as a proxy server, Tor software, or a virtual personal network.

Taken together, the statistics paint a portrait of a society very concerned with how its data is being used, but perhaps helpless (or clueless) in the face of it. The study highlights data retention limits as a possible salve. The shorter length of time that companies swear to keep data on hands, the more protected the citizens feel.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Pew Research

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Nearly 70% of SMBs Are Concerned About Security Infrastructure

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Security Infrastructure

Data breaches have been getting worse all year, especially for small businesses. SMBs are very concerned with the state of their security infrastructure, according to a new report from Software Advice, and rightly so. Cybersecurity awareness month may be over, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Software Advice, an IT security research consul firm, surveyed 385 adults that were either owners or major decision makers at U.S. firms with 500 employees or less, and there is a high level of concern. Sixty-seven percent of respondents were between moderately concerned and extremely concerned. The 34 percent that remain were either ‘minimally concerned’ or not concerned at all.

When it comes to security confidence, the numbers are a little better. Fifty-two percent of respondents were ‘moderately confident’ that their sensitive data was secure. Only four percent were not confident, which is promising. Still, only 27 percent were ‘extremely confident.’

Businesses may not fully understand the liability of weak security protocols. Breaches can be very costly, and 32 percent of respondents ranged from ‘minimally confident’ to a scary ‘not sure.’

The report advises: “SMB owners and operators who are uncertain about their liability should at the very least read up on the consequences of a data breach or consult with a lawyer.”

There is also a startling number of businesses unprepared for the possibility of a data breach. Forty-four percent of respondents are either ‘not sure’ or have ‘no plan.’ The report notes, “If you don’t know whether you have a plan or not, even if it turns out that such a plan exists, it is probably not a very good plan.”

For more information on better security practices and tips for securing your small business check out the report.

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