Who’s responsible for protecting personal information?

With half of Americans lacking confidence in companies and government when it comes to protecting personal information, it’s no surprise three-quarters (74%) are more alarmed than ever about their privacy, according to a research from NortonLifeLock.

protecting personal information

More than 10,000 adults online were surveyed in Australia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States about their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to cyber safety.

The individual consumer outranks government as most responsible

Americans are split on who should be held most responsible for ensuring personal information and data privacy are protected. Just over a third believe companies are most responsible (36%), followed closely by the individuals providing their information (34%), with slightly fewer holding the government most responsible (29%).

Half of Americans don’t give companies (49%) and government (51%) credit for doing enough when it comes to data privacy and protection. Notably, compared to the other countries surveyed, Americans are most likely to put the burden on individuals—in fact, it’s the only country where the individual consumer outranks government as most responsible.

“Americans are outliers compared to other countries surveyed in that they are willing to accept a lot of the responsibility in protecting their own data and personal information,” says Paige Hanson, chief of cyber safety education, NortonLifeLock.

“This could be the year Americans truly embrace their privacy independence, particularly with the help of new regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act giving them control over how their data is used.”

Americans have lived up to their sense of self responsibility with 87% taking steps to protect their online activities and personal information—whether that’s limiting what they share on social media (38%), avoiding public Wi-Fi (33%) or using identity theft protection services (20%).

Americans are also 15% more likely to say they are proactively looking for better ways to protect their privacy compared to the global average (75% vs. 65%).

Protecting personal information: Additional findings

Three-quarters of U.S. consumers (74%) report being more alarmed than ever about their privacy: The top of consumers’ list of concerns include their personal information being exposed in a data breach and compromised by cybercriminals (52%) and their sensitive personal information being sold to third parties and used in decision-making processes without their consent (43%).

One in six Americans are concerned that their personal information will be used to inappropriately influence how they vote: While much lower on the list of top concerns, it’s worth noting in a presidential election year that 16% of Americans are concerned that their personal information will be used to inappropriately influence how they vote in an election, a concern that is shared equally among Republicans (18%) and Democrats (16%).

Americans who identified as Republicans and Democrats agree on the government’s role in data privacy: Despite the current tensions and political divide, data privacy and protection is one area where Republicans and Democrats are in sync—Republicans (47%) and Democrats (50%) are equally likely to feel that the U.S. government is not doing enough and that the U.S. is behind most other countries when it comes to data privacy laws, with Democrats at 55% and Republicans at 54%.

Despite the potential for abuse or misuse, most Americans support the use of facial recognition: 68% of Americans believe facial recognition will likely be abused or misused in the next year, and 47% believe it will do more harm than good—with the biggest concern being that cyber criminals could access and/or manipulate their facial recognition data and steal their identity (39%).

Nevertheless, after learning the advantages and disadvantages, the majority of Americans still support the use of facial recognition among law enforcement (67%), schools (65%), and to a lesser extent, retailers (54%).

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Who’s responsible for protecting personal information?