In today’s world of instant access and oversharing where new technologies like AI and data breaches dominate the headlines, the role of privacy in everyday life is steadily taking center stage. Yet, there is much speculation and many unknowns driving these conversations.
So with a deep-seated passion for the topic and a desire to drive positive change for consumers, Cloaked set out to get a pulse on what privacy means to Americans and what is influencing their actions. With Propeller Insights, we fielded a 2,000-person survey to gain firsthand insights on its significance in our lives.
What we found was both eye-opening and meaningful. It’s true that privacy is on everyone’s mind. Regardless of gender, age or location, 92% of respondents shared that they think privacy is important or very important and 64% of individuals think about privacy often or always. In fact, 94% of respondents said society should pay more attention to privacy.
And now we also know the extent to which privacy is personal and the onus to which individuals are holding themselves accountable to maintain their privacy. Key findings include:
For many, privacy has been deemed an ambiguous term with a range of meanings and purposes. What has surfaced through the ambiguity though is the personal nature of privacy.
47% of respondents defined privacy with an inherent need for personal control and security, stating it is “the ability to do what I want and be confident in knowing my actions, communications and data will not be revealed or shared.”
And 83% of respondents stated that they believe privacy impacts them personally primarily due to factors, such as “what has happened to me” (21%), “who I am” (19%) or because of “how I feel” (17%).
Today, businesses, government and more play a critical role in maintaining security and privacy policies to serve consumers’ best interests. Yet an overwhelming majority of individuals blame themselves when things go wrong.
88% of respondents said that they are most responsible for protecting their personal information today, with 81% of respondents believing that it is still their responsibility to protect their data even after it has been shared with an outside party.
Of all respondents, 73% believe they have more or total control over their privacy compared to any other individuals or entities and 62% of individuals trust themselves to always protect their personal information and their partners second (26%), followed by healthcare providers (21%) and financial institutions (19%).
While 73% of individuals rarely or never trust strangers to protect their data, trust strengthens incrementally with organizations where more interactions take place or potential familiarity exists. For example, individuals rarely or never trust favorite brands (53%), social media companies (47%), work (43%), big tech (38%) and government (37%) to protect their personal information.
When asked what would make individuals comfortable sharing personal information, 48% of people said they’d be willing to share when “there’s little risk involved.” While respondents had different definitions of “risk,” the possibility of losing or being exposed to harm were most frequently expressed.
Furthermore, red flags arise most frequently around perceived risk when individuals believe they are being asked for unnecessary information (51%) or when it seems too personal (47%).
In regards to personal information, 70% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to share their name with a person or business that they’re interacting with for the first time. In contrast, only 11% would be open to sharing their LinkedIn information, and 12% to sharing their social security number.
87% of respondents confirmed that they have taken some form of action to protect their privacy with top moves being “turned on privacy settings” (55%), “chosen not to share information” (54%) or “not responded to an email or text” (50%).
While the sum of the actions align with the increased awareness of personal privacy, the methods of action do not indicate a deeper understanding of how to protect it. Pre-set privacy controls built into devices and software are a good place to start, but they rarely do enough to prevent the unnecessary sharing of consumer data.
More problematic is the sense of hiding that individuals are embracing as a way to keep their information private. More often than not, individuals are simply choosing not to share over trusting that the information they share will be kept secure.
In the end, Individuals want to take more action and desire a clear way to gauge the impact of the privacy actions they take. 49% of individuals believe taking basic steps to protect their privacy is working because it “makes them feel better,” while 25% percent of people don’t know if the actions they are taking actually work at all.
Yet, 50% of respondents said that they would take more action to protect their privacy if they had better tools, and 44% of individuals would do more if they had a better understanding of how their information is used.
The personal motivation for taking action is a great first step to individuals doing more to protect their personal information. The missing pieces are the awareness of what tools are available, easy ways to quantify success, and an understanding of what the world looks like without privacy anxiety.
These survey results demonstrate that many people are driven by fear and exacerbated by a lack of understanding about what happens to their data once it is shared.
Individuals shouldn’t have to bear the burden of responsibility on their own when it comes to privacy, nor should they feel such discomfort when trying to do something about it.
While the growth rate for our digital world is outpacing the ability to properly educate consumers on their right to privacy at every level, we now understand even better the role we – and the industry at large – have to play in educating and advocating for consumers so that we can shift the weight of responsibility from one to many and help everyone experience the comfort of real control.
It starts with education.
Understanding why people or organizations are asking for your data and what happens to it after it is shared are critical first steps to taking control of your personal information and learning how to take action.
In a typical situation without data protections or clear privacy best practices in place, as soon as you share personal information with another entity you lose control of it. Your data is collected and disseminated with the purpose of turning a profit.
Here’s what you can do to take control of your privacy:
It continues with advocacy.
Even though individuals feel we are most responsible for protecting our personal information, there are plenty of players who have a hand in keeping our data safe. As innovators, business owners and industry leaders, we must look out for consumers’ best interests. Here are a few steps to jumpstart your advocacy efforts:
Want to know more? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Cloaked 2023 Privacy Survey
A national online survey of 2,000 general consumers, was conducted by Propeller Insights between February 4 and February 10, 2023. Respondents opted into an online database, from there, they were targeted based on demographics. To further confirm qualifications, respondents were asked to verify their information in the survey itself, self-identifying qualifications, with the maximum margin of sampling error was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.