Aug 13, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Poll reveals Americans' data privacy frustrations

Illustration of Privacy alarm being snoozed on a phone
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Americans using digital services would gladly switch to companies that are more committed to data privacy and feel frustrated that they don't have more control over their personal data, according to survey results shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: Entire tech empires are built on assembling detailed digital dossiers on users, which can then be used to target advertising at them. This survey is the latest indicator that people are frustrated with that as the status quo, even as companies make efforts to be give users more control over how their data gets collected, stored and used.

Details: The survey found that Americans broadly want more control over what happens with their personal information and think that existing tools seem outdated and should be easier to use.

  • The survey, conducted in June, polled 1,018 Americans, selected to reflect the demographics of the country overall.
  • The company behind the survey is Transcend, which builds data privacy dashboards used by firms including Patreon and Robinhood so that their users can see what personal data gets collected and can request to download or delete it.

By the numbers: Among the findings:

  • 93% of Americans would switch to a company that prioritizes their data privacy.
  • 91% would prefer to buy from companies that always guarantee them access to their data.
  • 88% are frustrated that they don’t have more control over their data.
  • 73% reported finding the process of downloading their data from a comapny "outdated"; 32%, "hard"; 32%, "confusing."
  • About two-thirds said they want to be able to choose what data companies can and can't collect.

What they're saying: "They're pretty stark findings, and this first poll was conducted right in the middle of the pandemic," Transcend CEO Ben Brook told Axios.

  • "Even when consumers had other things that may very likely have been top of mind, privacy remained this very strong, deep-seated feeling. From our perspective it means that privacy passed its greatest test."

What's next: Transcend plans to continue conducting the survey annually. "Anyone thinking that this will go away is in denial," Brook said. "This is only a growing issue."

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