Americans don't trust government and companies to protect their data

Government surveillance and data breaches raise security concerns

Americans have little faith the government or companies can keep their private records secure online, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows.

Only 6% of respondents said there were “very confident” government agencies can keep their records private and secure while 31% said they were “not confident at all.”

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Landline telephone companies, which typically provide Internet service, didn’t fare any better. Just 6% of adults were “very confident” the companies could secure their data while 29% were “not confident at all.”

The results were even worse for social media sites and search engines. Among the survey’s 959 participants, 45% and 41% respectively said they had no confidence the sites could keep their activity private.

The attitudes appear to be driven by news of government surveillance revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 and the cascade of data breaches at major retailers, health insurance companies and financial institutions, the report said.

“These events -- and the doubts they inspired -- have contributed to a cloud of personal ‘data insecurity’ that now looms over many Americans’ daily decisions and activities,” the Pew Research Center said.

Americans have responded by changing their habits online in hopes of enhancing their privacy.

The survey found 59% of adults clear cookies or browser history, 57% refuse to provide information that isn’t germane to a transaction and 23% give inaccurate or misleading information.

A much smaller percentage of adults have gone so far as to encrypt their communication activity (10%) or employ a proxy server to use the Internet (9%).

More than nine in 10 of the survey takers believed it was important to be in control of who can get their personal information. A similar number of adults believed it was important to be able to share confidential information with a trusted person safely.

The survey, titled “Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance,” was conducted online in late 2014 and early 2015.

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