Most consumers believe government regulation should help address privacy risks

As consumers’ concerns about their digital privacy continue to grow and who is responsible for guarding it remains unclear, new research conducted by Ponemon Institute reveals a lack of empowerment consumers feel when it comes to their data privacy.

address privacy risks

Address privacy risks

The research points to a privacy gap between the consumer data protection individuals want and what industry and regulators provide. While the majority of consumers want their data protected, they’re still waiting on — or expecting – the federal government or industries to provide this protection.

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

“This research revealed much of the tension surrounding digital privacy today. Based on my polling experience, 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,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman of Ponemon Institute.

Interestingly, the study found that 64% of consumers say they think it is “creepy” when they receive online ads that are relevant to them, but not based on their online search behavior or publicly available information. This confirms that many consumers experience this phenomenon and are alarmed by it. In addition, 73% of consumers say advertisers should allow them to “opt-out” of receiving ads on any specific topic at any time.

This research also reveals a lack of empowerment that consumers feel in their ability to protect their privacy. While 74% of consumers say they have no control over the personal information that is collected on them, they are not taking action to limit the data they provide when using online services. In fact, 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.

Other key findings

Consumer concern is increasing: 68% of consumers 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: 92% of consumers 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: 78% of older consumers 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: 54% of consumers say online service providers should be accountable for protecting the privacy of consumers, while 45% say they themselves should assume responsibility.

How consumers protect themselves: 65% of consumers are using some type of privacy protection provided by their devices. Of these, 25% are setting a more restrictive data sharing setting, 21% are using both additional authentication controls and a more restrictive data sharing setting and 19% are using additional authentication controls.

Half of consumers are aware of the availability of protections: Of the protections available to consumers to protect their personal information, 52% say opting out of data collection and 48% say data sharing and encryption of personal information are available, respectively.

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Most consumers believe government regulation should help address privacy risks