Center for the Digital Future study finds little faith in how companies protect customer data

Do recent security breaches at major American companies shake the confidence among American consumers?

A new survey released today by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz Inc. found that after security hacks at companies like Target, Home Depot, and Anthem, large numbers of Americans have lost faith in companies' ability to protect personal information or to use that information wisely.

The Center's Topical Survey, which explores current issues affecting Internet users and non-users, found almost two-thirds of respondents — 64 percent — agree or strongly agree that they are uncomfortable with companies keeping their personal information.  

An even larger percentage — 73 percent — have a specific reason for their concerns: recent data breaches make them worry that their personal information is at risk of being hacked.

Only seven percent are unconcerned about recent data breaches.

The Topical Survey also found that much smaller numbers believe that companies maintain appropriate security measures; only one-third of respondents say that companies are taking the proper precautions to safeguard against data hacking.  And many respondents believe that such breaches are inevitable; 50 percent agree or strongly agree that recent data breaches are an unavoidable consequence of the technology age.

A smaller but still significant percentage of respondents demonstrate their lack of faith through action: 37 percent of respondents agree or strongly that they try to pay cash to avoid giving companies their credit card information.

“Clearly, many Americans have lost faith that companies take the proper precautions or handle data responsibly,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future.  

“All of our surveys since 2000 have found large numbers of respondents are generally concerned about the security of their personal information while online,” said Cole, “but these new findings show that the specific issues of corporate hacking and actual data loss by companies is contributing to the shaken confidence among consumers.”

Lack of faith in companies’ ability to use or protect personal information

The Topical Survey found that large percentages of respondents are concerned about how companies manage their personal information:

  • Sixty-nine percent said they worry about companies sharing personal information without their consent.
  • News about leaks of celebrity’s private information has added to the concerns – 45 percent of respondents said that recent privacy leaks have made them worry about their own online privacy.
  • Small numbers of respondents have confidence in the ability of companies to protect their privacy; only 28 percent agree or strongly agree that companies take proper precautions to safeguard privacy.