The American Cybersecurity Psyche

Posted February 9, 2015

National Cyber Security Alliance Study Provides Insights into Consumer Online Privacy Perceptions

NCSA, the National Cyber Security Alliance, is a nonprofit public-private partnership promoting the secure use of the Internet. NCSA works in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), private sector sponsors and non-profit collaborators, and is a major force behind Data Privacy Day, now in its eighth year.

The survey was created by NCSA and a Privacy Messaging Development Committee of thirty-five plus members from non-profits, government and industry, and was conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies. Following is a quick look at some key findings.

Top online privacy concerns

  • Americans ranked “Having personal information lost or stolen,” “Having your financial information lost or stolen” and “Not knowing what information is being collected about you or how it is being used” as top concerns.
  • 87% of individuals are either somewhat or very concerned that their information is shared with another party without their knowledge or consent.
  • Two-thirds of Americans would accept less personalized content during their online experience, including fewer discounts to keep their personal information private.

Notable consumer behavior

  • The majority of consumers report taking certain measures to protect their personal information. The most common are keeping passwords strong, only utilizing trusted vendors and keeping software updated.
  • Consumers are uninformed in part because they don’t understand what information is being collected about them, how it’s being used or with whom it is shared. Therefore, they aren’t certain how to protect themselves.
  • 49% of individuals are not familiar with how or why to set their Internet browser to the “do not track” mode.

Who consumers trust

  • The public is most comfortable with family, friends and their health insurance provider having access to personal information.
  • Levels of trust vary greatly and health insurance providers and financial institutions are more trusted than not. Consumers were asked to rate institutions by how well they thought the institutions would responsibly handle their information on a scale from 1 to 100.
  • Health insurance providers and banking or investment companies ranked as the most trusted entities and were rated at 56 and 57 respectively. This indicates they are more trusted than not, and rank much higher than advertisers at 22 and companies who collect and sell personal information at 15.
  • Overall, early adopters of technology are generally more trusting of all entities.

What’s important to protect

  • The public is least comfortable providing Social Security numbers, lists of contacts and email content, and is uncomfortable with the following information being collected: Social Security numbers, credit card information and email content. Younger adults are more concerned about their list of contacts being shared than are middle age and older adults.
  • When asked what information is of most value to companies and third parties, respondents indicated personal photos and videos. Driving habits were perceived as least valuable to companies or third parties.
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