Figures from Pew Research show that over two-thirds of Americans don’t know what is being done with their personal data. This is one of the highest numbers ever recorded and has risen from the previously recorded 59%. There is confusion amongst the public about what is happening at a corporate level with their personal data.
There is an even higher level of confusion when it comes to understanding how the government uses personal data. 77% of those polled don’t understand how their data is used by the government. Moreover, most Americans feel they have no control over how companies (73%) and the government (79%) process their data.
This would appear to be an issue that splits along partisan lines. Republicans appear to be more concerned about how their government uses their data than Democrats are. It makes sense that the side without the presidency feels more concerned. It would be interesting to see how these numbers would change if a Republican president won in the future.
Factors Influencing Consumer Views of Data Privacy
There have been a number of scandals over the years involving social media companies and the acquisition of personal data. One of the largest scandals involved a company called Cambridge Analytica, which ran highly-targeted Facebook adverts in the 2010s. It managed to harvest around 83 million Facebook profiles by exploiting Facebook’s Open Graph protocol. The company then used these profiles to run advertising campaigns for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
This was a huge scandal at the time, and many books have been written about the matter. According to Business Insider, “Cambridge Analytica developed psychographic profiles of tens of millions of US voters, and it hasn’t been shy about claiming credit for helping Trump to a slim victory in 2016.”
These scandals have undoubtedly influenced the public perception of how their data is collected and used. Having their consent violated by actors involved in these scandals has almost certainly reduced public confidence in social media companies. The ability to keep customers’ data safe seems limited at best.
Some of the largest technology companies have had serious data breaches. Yahoo had a data breach in 2013 of 3 billion accounts. They only came clean with the total number in 2016 after having been taken over by Verizon.
First American Financial also had a major data breach, which they reported in 2019. This involved 885 million records. The website apparently didn’t need a password to verify identity before accessing files.
How Can Companies Restore Public Confidence?
The main barriers to public confidence are stories like First American Financial not using a password on their website. These are basic cybersecurity measures that should have been in place to protect important consumer data.
Ensure Strong Encryption
There are many enterprise-level security solutions that can encrypt data end-to-end to avoid leaks. These solutions are crucial for every business. Never consider transmitting any important data unencrypted.
Websites now use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption as standard for important consumer data, including financial transactions. Any business that is serious about keeping customer data safe should be using this at the bare minimum. It’s not a new technology. Although it was developed by Netscape in 1995, it’s still effective.
Protect Devices With Anti-malware and Antivirus Software
Protecting any computer that interacts with customer information with both of these kinds of software is vital. The difference between anti-malware and antivirus software is that they deal with different threats.
Antivirus software detects and deals with computer viruses that are used to infect a computer. Anti-malware software seeks out software designed to hand control of a computer to another person or external organization.
Popular malware variants include keyloggers that can capture someone’s password as they type it. Trojan horses and backdoors are other types of malware that can allow an individual to control your computer remotely. These are the normal tools that adept computer hackers use to access consumer information.
It’s important to run anti-malware and antivirus software regularly. These programs help to identify any potential security risks that may be present on your device, thereby ensuring that your personal data remain protected.