Americans have little faith that the government or companies can keep their private records secure online, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows.
Only 6 percent of respondents said that they were “very confident” that government agencies can keep their records private and secure, while 31 percent said that they were “not confident at all.”
Landline telephone companies, which typically provide internet service, didn’t fare any better. Just 6 percent of adults were “very confident” that the companies could secure their data, while 29 percent were “not confident at all.”
The results were even worse for social-media sites and search engines. Among the survey’s 959 participants, 45 percent and 41 percent respectively said they had no confidence the sites could keep their activity private.
The attitudes appear to be driven by news of government surveillance revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 and the cascade of data breaches at major retailers, health-insurance companies and financial institutions, the report said.
“These events — and the doubts they inspired — have contributed to a cloud of personal ‘data insecurity’ that now looms over many Americans’ daily decisions and activities,” the Pew Research Center said.
Americans have responded by changing their habits online in hopes of enhancing their privacy.
The survey found that 59 percent of adults clear cookies or browser history, 57 percent refuse to provide information that isn’t germane to a transaction and 23 percent give inaccurate or misleading information.
A much smaller percentage of adults have gone so far as to encrypt their communication activity (10 percent) or employ a proxy server to use the internet (9 percent).
More than nine in 10 of the survey takers believed it was important to be in control of who can get their personal information. A similar number of adults believed it was important to be able to share confidential information with a trusted person safely.
The survey, entitled “Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance,” was conducted online in late 2014 and early 2015.