ACSC Survey Finds Massachusetts Residents Deeply Concerned Over Privacy and Control of Personal Data

In post-Equifax environment, 92% support stronger federal standards to protect their data privacy; 68% unlikely to continue to do business with a firm that suffers a breach

BOSTON, Dec. 18, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Advanced Cyber Security Center (ACSC) today announced the results of a cyber security public opinion survey that finds Massachusetts residents deeply concerned over privacy and the control of their personal data. Titled “Cyber Security Post Equifax: Perceptions and Priorities from Massachusetts Residents,” the study examines public opinion on consumer and privacy matters related to cyber security.     

Key findings include:

  • 89% of Massachusetts residents report that keeping their personal information private is a concern, with a majority saying it is a major concern.
  • While almost two thirds value the benefits of the Internet over the threats to privacy it brings, the overwhelming majority of residents (92 percent) believe the federal government should set tougher standards for technology and data companies to protect the personal data of consumers.
  • 68% say they are unlikely to continue to do business with an organization that suffers a data breach that releases personal data. 
  • At the same time, many consumers are not taking actions yet themselves, with close to 50% reporting they have taken no steps to protect their personal credit information.
  • Consumers appear to lack a basic foundation of knowledge about how their data is being used and appear unaware of the tools available to them to protect their data.

The report was produced for ACSC by Mass Insight Global Partnerships in collaboration with BW Research and based on an online Opinion Dynamics survey in November 2017 of 450 Massachusetts residents 18 years or older. The study contrasts survey data from previous Mass Insight surveys conducted in 2000, 2001, and 2015.

Residents do not believe they are threatened. Despite the reported widespread impact of the Equifax breach, 49% of MA residents say they did not believe they were affected by it, with another 30% not sure.  Only 22% reported they were affected. 

Privacy Costs. While close to 70% of respondents say they would be not likely to continue to do business with an organization that suffers a security breach and releases personal data (48 percent “not very likely” and 20% “not likely at all”), still 29 percent of residents are “somewhat likely” to continue doing business with an organization after a breach of this kind.

Concerns About Data Privacy Remain High. An increasing majority see the benefits of the internet and technology outweighing privacy concerns. Some 53% of respondents report that the privacy of their personal information is a major concern, up from 39% in 2015; 89% overall report it is either a concern or major concern, up from 75% in 2015   

Internet More a Benefit than a Threat. At the same time, nearly 2/3 of those surveyed believe the Internet has more benefits than threats to privacy, up from 56% in 2000 as Internet usage has become part of daily life and over 90% report they have made an Internet purchase in the last six months.  Close to 80% now support the advantages of computerized medical records as worth the tradeoff in privacy risks, while less than 50% thought they should be encouraged in 2000.

Federal Government Needs to Lead. 92 percent of residents agreed with a statement that the federal government should set tougher data protection standards for technology and data companies. However, nearly half of residents report they have never taken action to protect personal credit information, including enrolling in a credit monitoring program or putting a freeze on credit reports.

Confusion and Lack of Awareness of How Consumer Data Is Used. Residents generally are far more comfortable with firms using their data to market to them more effectively than they are with finance firms sharing or selling their credit data.  Credit data sharing raises almost as much concern as the risks of unauthorized use of medical records.   

Unsure of Consent Models. 48 percent of residents say giving consumers the choice to opt-out of sharing data is better for consumers, and 52 percent believing opt-in is better for consumers. This underscores a level of public confusion and the need for better public information and easier tools for consumers to use to take charge of their personal privacy.   

“Massachusetts consumers believe that they have control over their data, but don’t know what these controls are and when these are available, they aren’t using them,” said Michael Figueroa, Executive Director of the ACSC.  “People clearly are calling for solutions to make them more secure and protect their data privacy, and it’s time for the public and private sectors to work together to respond to this challenge.”

Download the report: “Cyber Security Post Equifax: Perceptions and Priorities from Massachusetts Residents.”

About the Advanced Cyber Security Center
The Advanced Cyber Security Center (ACSC) is a non-profit and cross-sector regional collaborative focused on building a stronger community defense by harnessing the collective resources of its members to solve common cyber security problems. As a leading federally-registered regional Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO), the ACSC serves as a security community hub that encourages cross-sector collaboration, taps advanced technology solutions, and promotes effective practices to help organizations strengthen their own cyber defense. At the same time, the ACSC deepens the capacity of the broader cyber community by enabling organizations to collectively address common problems, reduce duplicative effort, and establish a new baseline for security across Massachusetts and the New England regional community.

Media Contact / Press Registration
Mike Schultz, ACSC PR