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Online Exposure, Offline Uncertainty: Privacy and Security in a Virtual World

October 21, 2009 Prepared by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates in partnership with The Chertoff Group

Key Findings Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates conducted phone interviews with 1,003 members of the general population in the U.S., August 6-13, 2009. Margin of error is +/-3.09%, or larger for subgroups.

1 2 3 4

Americans are highly concerned about the security of their personal data online •

Most have little confidence in any institution to keep their information adequately protected

Anxiety over online security splits dramatically along age lines •

Young Americans actually more concerned with online security; more likely to trust the federal government to protect their information

Americans are unfamiliar with and concerned about many new technologies •

Few realize how many technologies with privacy implications they are already using to in their everyday lives

Americans are willing to accept more limited capabilities in return for greater security •

At least in theory, most value security and privacy over power and efficiency


Americans are Very Concerned about Online Security ›

Vast majority of Americans concerned about the security of their personal information ›

More than 4 in 5 Americans (81% of respondents) are concerned; over 50% are “very concerned”

Level of concern about online security actually decreases with age › ›

85% of population 35-&-under are concerned about online security vs. only 69% of ages 65+ More exposure = more concern? Higher anxiety among younger people may be due to higher familiarity with the Internet in general, and therefore a greater understanding of its risks.

Generally speaking, how concerned are you about the security of your personal information that is sent over the internet?








TOTAL CONCERNED Very concerned Somewhat concerned TOTAL NOT CONCERNED Not Very Concerned Not at all concerned Don’t Know

81 54 27 16 8 8 3

79 48 31 17 7 10 5

83 60 23 15 9 6 2

85 56 29 14 9 5 1

84 57 27 14 7 7 2

80 53 27 15 7 8 4

69 45 24 23 9 14 8 3

What are Americans afraid of online? â&#x20AC;ş

Greatest fears center around active threats: identity theft and hacking â&#x20AC;ş

Lowest fears are of accidental theft or government and corporate malfeasance Why are you concerned about the security of your personal information that is sent over the Internet?

60 50 40 30

All <35


35-49 50-64



0 Fear of Identity I think hackers I have heard I do not think it Theft will always find about data is possible to a way to steal being hacked or keep data data inappropriately 100% secure accessed in the news

I know I do not trust I do not trust someone who corporations to the government has had their keep to keep data hacked or information information inappropriately secure secure accessed


Trust in institutions generally low, mirrors off-line confidence ›

Most tangible offline institutions appear to be most trusted online ›

Americans trust regional banks’ and healthcare providers’ most, least trust in online-only establishments such as email providers and online brokerages

The more specific the institution, the more Americans trust them ›

Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration garnered higher confidence than either the federal government or the private sector in general How much confidence do you have in the following organizations to keep your information secure? Showing Great Deal + Somewhat confident

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0


Older Americans trust private sector, under-35s government â&#x20AC;ş

Trust levels split cleanly along age lines â&#x20AC;ş

For every sector, young Americans have greater faith in the federal government to protect them and their data while older Americans prefer private sector solutions

Who would you trust more to ensure proper privacy standards for location-based advertising? Private Sector <35 35-49 50-64 65+

Federal Government 61







Who would you trust more to ensure proper privacy standards for biometric identification?

<35 35-49 50-64 65+


Federal Government 59

35-49 50-64 65+



44 36

Federal Government 48

47 62

30 35

49 62


Who would you trust more to ensure proper privacy standards for electronic medical records? Private Sector Healthcare Providers <35

41 44

Utility Companies <35


Private Sector

Who would you trust more to ensure proper privacy standards for smart grids?

35-49 50-64 65+


Federal Government 47






31 6

Understanding of New Technologies


Americans are by and large unfamiliar with many of the following new technologies, yet very concerned about the privacy and security implications they carry with them. â&#x20AC;ş

Americans have serious security concerns about each new technology tested, but particularly cloud computing To what degree are you familiar with the following concepts? Unfamiliar

Familiar Cloud Computing


Location-based Advertising Electronic Medical Records

Smart Grid

85 70




68 84


78 32

29 13

Not concerned


87 29


How concerned would you be about the security of your personal information if it was stored via the following?


70 55

28 43

Cloud Computing Location-based Advertising Electronic Medical Records Biometrics Smart Grid

Bottom Line: Low Familiarity, High Concern 7

The Knowledge Gap in Practice

Many Americans don’t understand how exposed they already are to technologies with privacy implications › ›

Few appear to realize they are already exposed to cloud computing through their web-based email, and location-based ads through sites like Facebook and MySpace As a result most Americans are failing to take even the most fundamental steps to safeguard their information, like regularly changing passwords, leaving them extremely vulnerable to attack


Of Americans believe they’ve never used cloud computing services


Of respondents claim zero familiarity BUT with location-based advertising


65% 41%

Of Americans already use cloud services such as web-based email

Have received online ads that reference their approximate geographic location


Americans choose security over power, capability ›

Americans believe they will trade more limited capabilities for greater security › ›

Has major implications for the future of tech companies, especially those whose focus has traditionally been on cutting-edge innovation, not communications. Security (or the appearance of it) could soon trump innovation for the American consumer

When it comes to new computing technologies, which would you rather have? Greater risk, Greater capabilities

Lower risk, Fewer capabilities All





50-64 65+

72 67

Don’t Know

Peace of mind over online shopping, banking



16 22



18 11 10

Between the peace of mind of knowing your information is secure, and the convenience of online shopping and banking, I choose….

17 23


Convenience of online purchases, even with slight risk

Don’t Know



1 <35

51 59 60 69



31 15



9 17


50-64 65+


More on Online Security in America For more information about this survey and issues of online security, please contact:

Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, is a global research-based consultancy specializing in messaging and communications strategy. For more about PSB Contact: Beth Lester (202)962-3042

The Chertoff Group is a global security and risk management advisory firm that assists corporate and government clients in addressing threats related to terrorism, fraud, cyber security, border protection, and supply chain security. For more about The Chertoff Group Contact: Russ Knocke (202)262-4976


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