Survey: Nearly 3 in 4 Americans Want More Government Oversight on Data Privacy

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Slightly less than half of Americans say they wouldn’t share any sort of sensitive information with a business for any reason.

More than three quarters of Americans are concerned or very concerned about data privacy and 73% believe there should be more government oversight on the subject at the federal, state and local levels, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey, which polled 1,000 adults ages 18-65 on behalf of data firm Privitar, found 73% of Americans seeking more governmental regulatory scrutiny on businesses that have access to their sensitive and personal data. The survey reflects public thinking that the responsibility for data privacy should fall to businesses and not customers, who often don’t have a full picture of what tools businesses use to secure their information and systems.

For example, only 43% of respondents knew whether they had made use of a business that experienced a data breach. Similarly, 28% of respondents said they didn’t read privacy notices at all when using an application or business, and 42% reported “skimming” privacy notices.

The pandemic appears to have elevated public importance placed on data privacy, the survey suggests, in part due to widespread attention placed on contact tracing. Contact tracing is the process by which public health professionals attempt to identify all persons an infected individual may have come into contact with in hopes of contacting those individuals and slowing viral spread. In total, 78% of Americans are concerned or very concerned about protecting their personal data, and 51% say they are not comfortable divulging personal information despite improvements in data protection. Only 27% of Americans surveyed said they would share their personal data for healthcare advancements and research, while 21% said they would share their health data for contact tracing purposely alone.

Respondents also indicated that data breaches cause them to rethink relationships with businesses. Nearly one in four respondents said they stopped doing business—or did business less often—with a business after it was breached.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of the trust relationship companies and governments need to build with consumers in an increasingly digital world,” Jason du Preez, CEO and co-founder of Privitar, said in a statement. “The results of the survey affirm the growing need for brands to focus on building and maintaining this trust, starting first and foremost with protecting customer data. As more businesses utilize the cloud to enable data driven insights, a firm commitment to data privacy will help to ensure long-term loyalty,consumer satisfaction and shareholder value.” 

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