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Privacy

7/30/2020
12:45 PM
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Citizens Are Increasingly Worried About How Companies Use Their Data

With data privacy important to almost every American, more than two-thirds of those surveyed say they don't trust companies to ethically sell their data.

Americans are increasingly concerned with how companies are using their data, with nine out of every 10 citizens wanting the government to take on a greater role in the protection of their information, according to a representative survey conducted by professional services firm KPMG. 

The survey of 1,000 respondents in the United States found that nearly every American (97%) considers data privacy to be an important issue, with 87% labeling digital privacy as a human right. Yet more than two-thirds of respondents do not trust companies to ethically sell their information, and more than half do not even trust companies to use their information in an ethical way.

Overall, citizens have an increased their awareness of the issues and don't like what they see, says Steve Stein, principal of cybersecurity services at KPMG. "Consumers are beginning to demand more," he says. "While they are not as demanding as in Europe at this point, the notion [of data privacy] is emerging, and that is being codified into the laws being created."

Companies that have failed to protect people's data, or use that data as part of their products or services, should beware, according to the survey. US citizens are nearly united in their support for more government legislation to protect their rights to data privacy. While 86% of citizens say they must take some responsibility in protecting data, 90% argue that the government should play a role as well. The greatest majority (91%) hold that companies should take responsibility.

Support for laws similar to California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is high as well, with nine in 10 respondents agreeing that citizens should have the right to delete personal data, know how their data is being used, and have the right to opt out. In addition, 89% agree that businesses should not be able to use data to discriminate. 

"I think the story on CCPA is not been told yet," says Stein. "There has been a lot of disruption in the country in general, starting in January and going through COVID. As more enforcement actions are pursued by the [attorney general], as there is more litigation surrounding these requirements, we will figure out more about the overarching requirements of the law."

In fact, 46% of respondents consider corporate responsibility for data privacy a key social agenda for businesses, second only to companies' improvement of labor and workforce policies.

The survey found that Americans consider privacy to be important, but also that many still continue to engage in risky online behavior, says Orson Lucas, principal of cybersecurity services at KPMG, in an interview with Dark Reading.

"While it is very, very clear through the statistics that consumers were concerned with, and interested and focused on, how companies were managing their data, there was a more limited focus on personal responsibility on the management of that data as well," he says.

Educating people on the dangers of reusing passwords seems finally to have made an impression, with 78% of Americans considering it risky to use the same password for different accounts. Yet about 40% still engage in password reuse.

Both consultants recommend that companies make data privacy a priority in 2020 and pay more attention to their customers' concerns about how businesses use their data. With the overwhelming support among citizens for more privacy legislation, corporate inaction will likely lead to more legislation, if it's not too late already, they say.

Companies should adopt privacy programs based on the ethical use of data, use new technologies to manage customer information securely, and conduct privacy assessments, the KPMG report states.

"The findings are unmistakable," Lucas says in the report. "Data privacy and protection are clear priorities for consumers. Close attention to customer data handling, management and protection practices are key, foundational elements of establishing and maintaining digital trust."

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Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio
 

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