'Technoshock': Most Americans Believe Privacy Is A Lost Cause

Privacy is a growing consumer concern, thanks largely to advances in digital technology. Focus on the issue intensified when news of the government’s spat with Apple over its refusal to help hack a dead terrorist’s iPhone hit the front pages a few months ago.  

The case, which had been winding through the courts, was rendered moot last month when the government said it was able to hack the phone without Apple’s help.

But a new survey from Horizon Media shows that a majority of consumers want a legal resolution of the matter. The survey found that 73% want the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the matter because, “we need a clear legal path for if/when this happens again."

Women are more likely than men to want a final decision (78% vs. 68%). 

“The cognitive conflict between maintaining personal privacy and guarding public safety highlights a trend we call Technoshock,” says Kirk Olson, VP, TrendSights at Horizon. “Rapid technological change has opened up new possibilities, but it has also put people on edge. That’s why most are convinced something like this will happen again and would like to have seen a final resolution. Not knowing where exactly the government draws the lines is disorienting.”



Looking at the issue more broadly, less than half of Americans (44%) believe that they are "in control” of their privacy, representing a significant drop compared to similar survey questions posed in 2015 (60%) and 2013 (59%).

A substantial majority feel helpless to do anything about it.

More than eight in 10 (82%) agree that “while I’m not happy about it, companies are going to get my personal information regardless of my actions.” More than three quarters (78%) say “I would have to go off the grid entirely to protect my privacy, and I’m not willing to do that.”

“Mobile devices and the data they contain are extremely personal," says Sarah Bachman, VP, mobile strategy at Horizon Media. "For some people though, the benefits of being constantly connected outweigh the risks, and taking the steps required to adequately protect their information isn’t a priority for a number of reasons.”

In some cases people aren’t sure what to do, or just don’t want to deal with it, she said.

As an industry, added Bachman, “we need to continually track this dynamic issue and ensure marketing and messages stay within the boundaries of consumer acceptance and comfort."

That said, a growing number of consumers aren’t comfortable and are suing agencies, holding companies, smart device makers and a number of advertising technology firms over privacy concerns.

Per the Horizon survey, two-thirds (67%) say tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and others are right to support Apple in its dispute with the FBI. This sentiment is driven by younger people (74% of 18-to-34 year-olds versus 69% of those 35-49, 62% of 50-64, and 59% of 65+). 

The survey queried 3,000 consumers via Horizon's "Finger On The Pulse" research platform earlier this month. 



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