7 in 10 Americans Feel Their Personal Data Is Less Secure Than 5 Years Ago

January 3, 2020

The majority (62%) of Americans feel it is not possible to go through their daily lives without having their data collected by companies. Added to that, 8 in 10 (81%) feel that they have little control over the data that companies are collecting, per a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Among the more than 4,200 US adults surveyed, about 7 in 10 believe that all or most of their activities online are being tracked by companies. That being said, they feel they have control over some of the activities that are tracked more than others. For instance, almost half (48%) of respondents who use the internet feel they do not have control over who can access the search terms they use, significantly more than the 28% who say they don’t have control over who has access to their physical location. Nonetheless, that feeling of control over physical location could dissipate in the near future, as marketers start to increase the use of location data across more channels.

Meanwhile, some 45% of respondents feel they don’t have control over who can access information on purchases they have made online or in-person, while 41% feel they can’t control who can access information about which websites they visit. And of the respondents who use social media, 35% feel they don’t have control over who can access their social media posts or activities.

The survey also found that the majority (70%) of Americans feel that their personal information is less secure than it was 5 years ago. This is especially true for Americans over the age of 50. Some 73% feel their personal information is less secure than it was 5 years ago, compared to 67% of 18-49-year-olds.

On an even more discouraging note, 8 in 10 respondents (79%) say they are not confident that companies will publicly admit mistakes and take responsibility when they misuse users’ data, while another 7 in 10 (69%) say they are not confident that companies use users’ personal information in ways they feel comfortable with.

Despite the fears of lack of control over who has access to personal information, more than one-quarter (28%) of US adults say they benefit from data collected about them by companies. This includes 31% of adults 30-49-years-old who say they are likely to benefit from the data companies collect on them.

But even when consumers believe that they will benefit from data being collected, that doesn’t mean that they are willing to part with more information. A study by Advertising Research Federation found that even when promised a more personalized experience, consumers were no more likely to share personal information.

More findings are available here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 4,272 US adults conducted between June 3-17, 2019.


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