Research: 80% of Americans say the US government isn’t doing enough to protect their privacy online

A recent survey of 2310 Americans conducted by data privacy agent Incogni on user attitudes towards online privacy shows that most people surveyed aren’t satisfied with the data privacy laws in the U.S.. With the lack of any federal action, 70% of respondents do not feel safe online, and 80% say the government isn’t doing enough to protect their privacy.

Research: 80% of Americans say the US government isn’t doing enough to protect their privacy online

Key findings: 

  • 70% of Americans do not feel safe online
  • 9 in 10 answered “Yes” to the question “Have you ever experienced online scam attempts?”
  • 7 of 10 say companies should be more regulated. 
  • Only 1/3 say that they know what laws protect their data privacy 

Meta Platforms has been fined 17 million euros ($18.6 million) for violating the European Union’s privacy regulations by failing to prevent data breaches on its Facebook platform.

The feeling of insecurity isn’t unfounded as almost all of the people polled have reported experiencing at least some form of cybercrime. Scams were the most common type of crime reported at 90%, while over three quarters (70%) said they have experienced personal data breaches. Cybersecurity company Surfshark data breach statistics show data breach rates have been on the rise in 2022. In 2022’Q1, 450 accounts were being breached every minute. In 2022’Q2, however, breach rates are 2.0% higher, with 459 accounts being leaked every 60 seconds.

This feeling of insecurity has been exacerbated by data breaches, such as the Equifax breach that compromised the identity of almost 146 million Americans or the famous Cambridge Analytica case. Meta Platforms has been fined 17 million euros ($18.6 million) for violating the European Union’s privacy regulations by failing to prevent data breaches on its Facebook platform.

The correlation between these experiences and data privacy is unclear, however, 19 in 25 of respondents said that they don’t trust how companies handle their private data. In fact, 71% of respondents say companies should be more regulated when there are no federal laws that restrict how these companies handle user data. Only five states have comprehensive local regulations (such as the California Consumer Privacy Act). Even with these laws protecting data privacy rights, only every third said that they are aware of laws protecting their privacy. 

The lack of laws and public awareness of privacy rights could be exposing Americans to more risks. The survey results indicate that users who are aware of how their data is being collected and handled are more likely to read privacy policies and ask companies to delete their data. 

“This type of behavior can significantly reduce the individual risk of scams, identity theft, and even online harassment and stalking, which have been linked to having more personal data online. Data privacy is becoming an increasingly alarming issue, yet many people are still unaware of the hidden market that data brokers operate in. However, based on recent studies, the actual process of taking back data has been shown to be extremely tedious. It requires legal knowledge and lots of persistence,” says Darius Belejevas, Head of Incogni.

With the mass data collection online and the absence of stringent federal data privacy regulations in the US, Americans are left with two options when it comes to deleting their personal data. Some individually reach out to data brokers or companies that store their personal information and request their data to be deleted. Even fewer use the services of privacy agencies that automatically find and remove their data from the internet on their behalf. One way or another, 62% of the surveyed respondents said that they have never asked any company to remove their private information. 

Surely, a lot of private information is voluntarily provided when people sign up for online services, newsletters and complete forms. Today, where people are required to provide personal information for everything, from buying things online to receiving healthcare, there should be laws regulating how businesses protect and use private information with which they’ve been trusted and to use it only for the purpose specified.Privacy laws should provide Americans with the privacy protection they need, making sure their private data is handled in a fair way.

Methodology: survey of Internet users from 6 U.S. states: CA, CO, FL, NY,  TX,  VA (N=2310), May 2022