New Survey, Old Story: Americans Are Worried About Privacy

Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about their digital privacy, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports.

Of the 1,007 consumers polled, 70% lack confidence that their information is private and secure -- up from 65% in the last survey in January, Consumer Reports says. And 92% think companies should be required to have their permission before sharing or selling their online data.  

That same high percentage believes that Internet companies should give them “a complete list of the data they’ve collected about them, if asked,” the magazine continues.

And in general, 65% don’t trust the government to protect their interests as consumers.

Some readers apparently are unhappy with content that strays from product reviews. One person commented in a post that “I'm a very long term donating subscriber. You may lose me if you insist on messing with social/political issues.” But the findings on privacy crossed party lines.

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“The opinions of Americans are changing because they're learning more about how data collection works,” Ellison Anne Williams, CEO and founder of the cybersecurity startup Enveil and a former senior researcher for the National Security Agency, told Consumer Reports. “I have consistently observed that anytime someone is educated about how their data is used and how much of it providers hold, they are generally unhappy,’” Williams says.

The survey apparently didn’t ask questions about email per se, but it found that consumers object to the use of data in in seemingly unfair ways.

For example, two-thirds object to “dynamic pricing,” in which goods and services like airline tickets are offered at different prices, depending on demographic factors and variables like income, home address, age, credit rating and browsing history.

The article continued that Consumer Reports has launched an initiative to develop standards evaluating products and services for privacy and data security.

A recent survey by Gigya found that few consumers trust governments to protect their privacy. Of those surveyed, 63% put the burden on individuals, 19% on brands and 18% on governments.

In a non-privacy-related question, Consumer Reports found that 78% believe the government should help people gain access to “affordable, quality healthcare. However, it also revealed that 41% lack confidence they will have access to that benefit, up from 35% in the magazine’s January survey. These concerns also cross party lines -- overall, 57% doubt that they will have access to affordable health insurance, with 47% of the Republicans now voicing concerns about, compared with 42% in the last survey.

In addition, the survey showed that, overall, 45% lack assurance that the government will “hold the auto industry to high standards.”  And 60% doubt that the country’s food supply is safe from contamination, and that it is produced “without unnecessary antibiotics,” the magazine adds. 

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