According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of Americans have experienced some sort of data theft or fraud, which has left many people mistrustful of organizations in charge of safeguarding their information. The research found that 41 percent of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards, and 35 percent said they had sensitive information compromised.
A smaller percentage of the individuals surveyed for the research said they had their email or social media accounts compromised or that someone had impersonated them in order to file fraudulent tax returns. Overall, the survey found that 64 percent of participants said they had some form of personal data stolen or compromised.
The greatest concerns according to those surveyed were regarding telecom firms, credit card companies and others, but majority of those surveyed were concerned about the government and of social media companies. Following the epidemic of data breaches and hacks recently, “many Americans lack faith in specific public and private institutions to protect their personal information from bad actors,” the study says.
Just 12 percent of the individuals surveyed said they had a high level of confidence in the American government’s ability to protect their data and only nine percent said the same about social media companies. However, the survey also found that most Americans don’t take a proactive role in their own data security with steps such as password management and enhanced authentication.
While half of the individuals surveyed said they have used “two-factor” authentication on their online accounts – requiring a code sent to a mobile phone or separate account – many use similar passwords for multiple accounts or share their passwords with others, the research found. The vast majority of those surveyed (86 percent) said they keep track of passwords by memory, and only 12 percent used password management software which is said to be more secure.
More than one in four respondents said they did not lock their smartphone screen, and some neglect to install important updates for their phones or applications. The report is based on a survey conducted from March 30 to May 3, 2016, among 1,040 adults, with a margin of error for the full group estimated at 3.4 percentage points.