Americans Say Data Privacy is Important, but Few Take Steps to Protect Themselves

With concern for online data privacy at an all time high, we found that though many say online data privacy is “very important” to them, not everyone is taking necessary steps to protect themselves.

Americans Say Data Privacy is Important, but Few Take Steps to Protect Themselves

Concern for online data privacy is at an all time high after data breaches at large companies like Equifax and Yahoo. At Instamotor, we take our user’s privacy seriously. For example, our platform uses privacy shield phone numbers, so buyers and sellers don’t have to give out their personal telephone number publicly. Behind the scenes, we protect and encrypt our user’s data and we never sell their information to third party companies.

With user security in mind, we wanted to understand what concerns American’s have regarding their data privacy and what measures they’re currently taking to protect it.

We surveyed 1,500 Americans and found:

People say their online data privacy is “very important” to them

  • Almost 9 in 10 (87%) say online data privacy is “very important” to them
  • More than half of respondents are most concerned about identity theft (51%), followed by someone accessing their financial accounts (27%) and someone using their information to find them in real life (13%)

But relatively unconcerned about the government knowing their personal information

  • 9% of respondents say the government accessing their personal information was their biggest concern regarding online privacy

Most people don’t want their data sold to third parties but not everyone is reading the Terms and Conditions

  • More than 3 in 5 (64%) believe tech companies should not sell their data to third parties under any circumstances, while more than a quarter (27%) said “it depends on what they’re selling and to whom”
  • 1 in 10 (10%) say they NEVER read the Terms and Conditions when opening new accounts or downloading apps, with 15% saying they usually don’t read them

Many people that use virtual assistants, like Alexa, are concerned that they are always listening

  • Of respondents using virtual assistants, more than half (54%) are concerned their virtual assistants are always listening, more than a quarter (28%) are not concerned at all

Measures People are Taking (or not taking) to Protect Their Privacy:

  • Less than half of respondents change their passwords regularly (41%)
  • More than half (62%) display personal information on their social media profiles (birthday, phone number, employers, etc.)
  • A little more than a quarter (28%) use a password protector or generator
  • Less than 1 in 5 (19%) cover their laptop and cell phone cameras when not in use or use a private browser of VPN (18%)
  • More than 1 in 10 (11%) don’t take any of these security measures

Surprisingly, there were no significant differences between Millennials and Gen Xers, or women and men.

7 Things You Can Start Doing to Protect Your Privacy

1. Don’t fill out your social media profile. The more information you share online, the easier it’s going to be for someone to find it, even if it’s not all in one place. Take a look at your social media profiles and minimize the information you share—the people who need to know your birth date, email address and phone number already have them.

2. Be careful about sharing your social security number—even just the last 4 digits. Think twice and then think again about sharing your social security number with anyone, unless it’s your bank, a credit bureau, a company that wants to do a background check on you or some other entity that has to report to the IRS. We don’t need to explain the trouble it can cause if your social security number falls into the wrong hands.

3. Lock down your hardware. Make sure all of your devices are password protected. That means cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Not only should you use a passcode to access them every time you use them, install an app that will locate your device if it’s lost or stolen, as well as lock it or wipe it clean of any data so a stranger can’t get access to the treasure trove of data saved on it.

4. Turn on private browsing. If you don’t want anyone with physical access to your computer to see where you’re hanging out online you should enable “private browsing,” a setting available in each major web browser. It deletes cookies, temporary Internet files and browsing history after you close the window.

If you truly care about your privacy you’ll surf the Internet anonymously by hiding your IP address, avoiding every company in the world that’s looking to track your activity and target you with ads. You can do this using a web proxy or a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

5. Use a password vault that generates and stores strong and unique passwords.
Most people know better than to use the same password for more than one website or application. However, it can be impossible to remember a different one for the dozens of online services you use. To eliminate this dilemma, use a password manager that will not only remember all your passwords, but will generate super strong and unique ones and automatically fill them into login fields with the click of a button.

6. Don’t give our your zip code when making credit card purchases. Often stores will ask for your zip code when you’re checking out with a credit card. Don’t give it to them unless you want to donate your details to their marketing database. By matching your name, taken from your credit card, with your zip code, companies can more easily mine more information, including your address phone number and email address.

7. Lie when setting up password security questions. “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In what city were you born?” are common questions websites often ask you to answer so as to supposedly keep your account safe from intruders. In reality, there’s nothing secure about those questions. Often, a quick Google search can get the answer.


We survey 1,500 Americans via the survey platform Pollfish about their feelings and habits regarding online data security. The survey was conducted on November 3, 2017.

Related Articles
Brionna LewisBrionna Lewis

Brionna is on a roller coaster that only goes up. You can follow her on twitter @BrionnaLewis.