• May 24, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Americans Lack Digital Privacy Knowledge

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Most Americans claim to be very concerned about data privacy, but these feelings don’t affect how much attention they pay to consent agreements, according to research by Security.org, a provider of security research and education.

According to the organization’s study, the vast majority of Americans do not fully read privacy agreements before agreeing to them. In fact, 98 percent of respondents agreed to a fake consent form that surrendered naming rights to their firstborn child, and 100 percent of the people who said they usually read user agreements, terms of service, and privacy policies thoroughly before signing wound up agreeing to the bogus consent form.

According to Security.org’s data, only 11 percent of consumers thoroughly read consent forms before signing them, while 37 percent admit to only skimming them and 35 percent don’t read them at all.

The most common reason (cited by 55 percent of respondents) for not reading such agreements is because they’re too wordy. Another 20 percent said the documents are just too hard to understand. Many companies’ privacy policies and user agreements have word counts in the thousands, so it’s no wonder that so many Americans skip the fine print when downloading apps.

The research also found that on average, Americans could only correctly identify the types of data the apps on their phones gather with 54 percent accuracy. The vast majority (78 percent) of people failed this quiz, which prompted Security.org to conclude that there is a wide knowledge gap between Americans’ perceptions of the data their phones track and the information they actually track.

At the same time, these same consumers say they are very interested in seeing what companies do with their data: 77 percent said they’d want to see regular reports from companies about what’s being done with their personal data, and 92 percent said these reports should be legally required.

Most Americans would also support a policy that would keep companies from selling their personal data, even though it could cause a disruption of personalized or targeted advertising on their online and social platforms, the research found.

Three out of four people who said they like their social media feeds to be tailored to them also said they’d support this legislation, and 75 percent who said they like personalized advertising also said they’d support this legislation.

“These findings seem to indicate that people prioritize data privacy over convenience; however, this may just be lip service,” the report concluded. “A more likely conclusion is that people generally don’t fully understand the vital connection between user-data trafficking and personalized content. Americans are caught in a tug of war between convenience and privacy, and we can’t seem to make up our mind.”

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