74% of Internet Users Feel They Have No Control Over the Personal Information Collected on Them


July 30, 2020

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74% of Internet Users Feel They Have No Control Over the Personal Information Collected on Them

New research conducted by the Ponemon Institute reveals a substantial lack of empowerment felt by consumers when it comes to their data privacy. There is also a gap between the data protection individuals want and what industry and regulators provide, pointing to a dire need for digital identity protection solutions on a consumer level.

According to the report (Privacy and Security in a Digital World: A Study of Consumers in the United States), consumers are still waiting on — or expecting – the federal government to drive data protection initiatives.

More than half of consumers (60%) believe government regulation should help address the privacy risks facing consumers today. Of those, 34% say government regulation is needed to protect personal privacy and 26% believe a hybrid option (regulation and self-regulation) should be pursued.

The study found that 64% of consumers think it”s “creepy” when they receive online ads that are relevant to them. And 73% of consumers want advertisers to allow them to “opt-out” of receiving ads on any specific topic at any time.

It is worth noting that the social microblogging platform Twitter indeed offers this opt-in/opt-out feature. This cannot be said about other popular online services, though.

Twitter is a rare example in the social media world where users are offered a transparent, friction-free method to opt-in or out of personalized ads.

The research reveals a lack of empowerment that consumers feel in their ability to protect their privacy, coupled with a bit of negligence on the users” end.

While 74% of consumers say they have no control over the personal information that is collected on them, they are also not taking much action to limit the data they provide to the online services they employ on a daily basis, like Facebook and Google.

In fact, the report notes, 54% of consumers say they do not consciously limit what personal data they are providing.

“This lack of empowerment can have devastating effects on consumers’ privacy if it goes unchecked,” the researchers said.

Other key findings include:

  • Consumer Concern Is Increasing: Two-thirds of consumers (68%) are more concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information than they were three years ago. Three-fourths of consumers (75%) in the over 55 age group have become more concerned about their privacy over the past three years.
  • Search Engines Least Trusted: Almost all consumers (92%) believe search engines are sharing and selling their private data, 78% believe social media platforms are and 63% of consumers think shopping sites are as well. Similarly, 86% of respondents say they are very concerned when using Facebook and Google and 66% of respondents say they are very concerned when shopping online or using online services.
  • Seniors Against Advertising Tracking: A majority of older consumers (78%) say advertisers should not be able to serve ads based on their conversations and messaging.
  • Consumers Have Little Hope in Websites’ Ad Blocking: Only 33% of consumers expect websites to have an ad blocker that stops tracking and only 17% of consumers say they expect websites to limit the collection and sharing of personal information.
  • Split Responsibility: More consumers (54%) say online service providers should be accountable for protecting the privacy of consumers, while 45% say they themselves should assume responsibility.

According to Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute, “these findings make a compelling case for the important role identity protection products and services play in protecting consumers’ privacy.”

“The study shows that many consumers are alarmed by the uptick in privacy scandals and want to protect their information, but don’t know how to and feel like they lack the right tools to do so,” Dr. Ponemon stressed.

At Bitdefender, we believe the more we control our digital footprint, the easier it is to manage our individual online reputation and personal data. Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection lets you see if your personal info has been stolen or made public, or – in case the answer is Yes – how much of it has actually been leaked.

Bitdefender DIP offers continuous identity monitoring, meaning you are alerted if any sensitive information that relates to your identity is found on the Dark Web or public databases. You get alerts about identity-theft attempts, data breaches, account take-overs and social media impersonations, and you can immediately take action to secure your online identity with only a few clicks. Learn more at https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/digital-identity-protection.html.




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

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