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US citizens worried about online privacy but won’t act

Consumers report feeling uncomfortable using platforms like social media that track, use and potentially sell their data

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Consumers have knowledge gaps when it comes to what can and can't happen to their data
Consumers have knowledge gaps when it comes to what can and can't happen to their data

The vast majority of the US population are concerned about the privacy of their personal data online, but few have taken the steps necessary to protect their information when shared across the internet, a new study finds.

 

Almost nine in 10 respondents (87.5 per cent), regardless of age and gender, say they are “slightly” to “very concerned” about the privacy of their personal data online. An additional 45 per cent of consumers report feeling uncomfortable using platforms like social media that track, use and potentially sell their data, according to The State of Online Privacy whitepaper.

 

Half believe personal data is less secure today

 

In the wake of the 2013 Edward Snowden data leaks and corporate breaches at Equifax, it’s no surprise roughly half of all US citizens believe their personal data is less secure today than compared to five years ago, notes online privacy expert BestVPN.com which carried out the study.

 

Upon examination of the kinds of information consumers willingly upload to the internet, it’s easy to see why they are worried. Nearly two thirds of the populace (64 per cent) have at least one account online with banks, financial service providers, household utility providers or healthcare organisations.

 

Although consumers expressed outrage after social media scandals like Facebook/Cambridge Analytica few have taken steps to address their data security. Only half (48 per cent) of respondents have checked to see if their data has been compromised in the last 12 months while 46 per cent of respondents have not adjusted their privacy settings on social media.

 

The report also reveals widespread knowledge gaps with 62 per cent of internet users believing it’s illegal for internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and sell their personal data without consent, while less than half (47 per cent) of respondents know what is a virtual private network (VPN).

“Employing security tools like a VPN and practicing good cyber habits can help private citizens safeguard their data from prying eyes"

However, BestVPN.com points out that US president Donald Trump recently signed a congressional resolution repealing rules that mandated ISPs gain customer permission first before collecting and selling personal data.

 

While breaches grow increasingly sophisticated and corporations fail to address security oversight, individual consumers are also guilty of practicing poor habits that puts their data at risk, states the report. Most consumers won’t even pay attention to their security settings until after a major data breach makes headlines.

 

That doesn’t mean internet users should wait around for their personal data to be compromised before choosing to act, cautions BestVPN.com. “Employing security tools like a VPN and practicing good cyber habits can help private citizens safeguard their data from prying eyes. Nothing is foolproof, but that doesn’t mean consumers should shy away from protecting their personal data.”

 

The full report can be read here.

 

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