74% of Internet Users Feel They Have No Control Over the Personal Information Collected on Them

New research conducted by the Ponemon Institute reveals a substantial lack of empowerment felt by consumers when it comes to their data privacy. There is also a gap between the data protection individuals want and what industry and regulators provide, pointing to a dire need for digital identity protection solutions on a consumer level.

According to the report (Privacy and Security in a Digital World: A Study of Consumers in the United States), consumers are still waiting on — or expecting – the federal government to drive data protection initiatives.

More than
half of consumers (60%) believe government regulation should help address the
privacy risks facing consumers today. Of those, 34% say government regulation
is needed to protect personal privacy and 26% believe a hybrid option
(regulation and self-regulation) should be pursued.

The study found that 64% of consumers think it’s “creepy” when they receive online ads that are relevant to them. And 73% of consumers want advertisers to allow them to “opt-out” of receiving ads on any specific topic at any time.

It is worth noting that the social microblogging platform Twitter indeed offers this opt-in/opt-out feature. This cannot be said about other popular online services, though.

Twitter is a rare example in the social media world where users are offered a transparent, friction-free method to opt-in or out of personalized ads.

The research
reveals a lack of empowerment that consumers feel in their ability to protect
their privacy, coupled with a bit of negligence on the users’ end.

While 74% of
consumers say they have no control over the personal information that is
collected on them, they are also not taking much action to limit the data they
provide to the online services they employ on a daily basis, like Facebook and

In fact, the
report notes, 54% of consumers say they do not consciously limit what personal
data they are providing.

“This lack
of empowerment can have devastating effects on consumers’ privacy if it goes
unchecked,” the researchers said.

Other key
findings include:

  • Consumer Concern Is Increasing: Two-thirds of consumers (68%) are
    more concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information
    than they were three years ago. Three-fourths of consumers (75%) in the over 55
    age group have become more concerned about their privacy over the past three
  • Search Engines Least Trusted: Almost all consumers (92%) believe
    search engines are sharing and selling their private data, 78% believe social
    media platforms are and 63% of consumers think shopping sites are as well.
    Similarly, 86% of respondents say they are very concerned when using Facebook
    and Google and 66% of respondents say they are very concerned when shopping
    online or using online services.
  • Seniors Against Advertising Tracking: A majority of older consumers (78%)
    say advertisers should not be able to serve ads based on their conversations
    and messaging.
  • Consumers Have Little Hope in
    Websites’ Ad Blocking:
    Only 33% of consumers expect websites to have an ad blocker that stops
    tracking and only 17% of consumers say they expect websites to limit the
    collection and sharing of personal information.
  • Split Responsibility: More consumers (54%) say online
    service providers should be accountable for protecting the privacy of
    consumers, while 45% say they themselves should assume responsibility.

According to
Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute, “these findings
make a compelling case for the important role identity protection products and
services play in protecting consumers’ privacy.”

“The study
shows that many consumers are alarmed by the uptick in privacy scandals and
want to protect their information, but don’t know how to and feel like they
lack the right tools to do so,” Dr. Ponemon stressed.

At Bitdefender, we believe the more we control our digital footprint, the easier it is to manage our individual online reputation and personal data. Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection lets you see if your personal info has been stolen or made public, or – in case the answer is Yes – how much of it has actually been leaked.

Bitdefender DIP offers continuous identity monitoring, meaning you are alerted if any sensitive information that relates to your identity is found on the Dark Web or public databases. You get alerts about identity-theft attempts, data breaches, account take-overs and social media impersonations, and you can immediately take action to secure your online identity with only a few clicks. Learn more at https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/digital-identity-protection.html.

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