Citizens Experience ‘Cyber Insecurity’ When Doing Business with Government

Maksim Kabakou/

74 percent of respondents in a new survey said they lacked confidence in the government’s ability to keep their personal data “private and secure.”

Nearly four in five U.S. citizens polled in a new survey have privacy concerns when it comes to sharing personal digital data with federal agencies.

The research, released today by Accenture, comes on the heels of another breach of supposedly secure federal records.

Last week, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen told the Senate Finance Committee fraudsters were able to access personal tax information from 100,000 people through a tool used in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid system.

The growing number of well-publicized breaches in recent years, which includes the exposure of more than 20 million federal employees and federal contractors’ personally identifiable information in 2015, is not helping citizen confidence.

According to Accenture's research, 30 percent of 3,500 U.S. citizens surveyed said they’d been a victim of a cybercrime, and 74 percent said they lacked confidence in the government’s ability to keep their personal data “private and secure.” The public seems to be aware cybercrime is complex to investigate, with two-thirds of respondents showing no confidence in law-enforcement agencies to “investigate and prosecute cybercrimes.”

All of which is to say Americans on the whole experience “cyber insecurity” when they deal with government, said Lalit Ahluwalia, who heads Accenture’s security work with government clients in North America.

“This survey confirms that cyber insecurity is pervasive, with citizens feeling concerned and vulnerable,” Ahluwalia said in a statement. "All organizations must make cybersecurity a top priority and move to deploy end-to-end cyber defense solutions to combat threats to data, and to ensure citizen confidence when engaging with government agencies.”

Two-thirds of citizens said they were willing to forgo convenience for the sake of security if it helps them avoid identity theft, and 60 percent said they’d be OK answering additional login questions to increase security. Biometric technologies, however, are less popular among citizens, with fewer than half (47 percent) expressing support for them.

Citizens didn’t single out specific agencies as particularly egregious, and 79 percent said they believed government-held data was “as secure or more secure” as data held in commercial facilities. In other words, Americans—bombarded with news of another high-profile breach seemingly by the day—are feeling cyber insecurity in most every facet of their lives.