It’s scary out there. And I’m not just talking about the physical world.

Facing the Trust Issue Head-On

Frightening headlines blare the bad news of cybersecurity breaches and personal data theft daily. And the entertainment industry only contributes to the madness. (Have you seen Netflix’s Black Mirror?)

Understandably, that’s put people on edge. And it’s eroding their trust in online security and the organizations that handle their digital data.

Our always-on connections and digitized information mean every single one of us has something to lose. Many of us have already suffered the consequences of a data breach and having our personal information compromised. . And forecasts suggest we should gird for more of the same – and even more sophisticated plots to steal our data and invade our privacy in the future.

But what do people view as the biggest risks in this realm today? How is it impacting their opinions, choices and behaviors? And what can organizations and security experts do to build and maintain confidence in the privacy and security of online applications, data and experiences at a time when some are proclaiming the end of trust?

These are among the questions Entrust Security set out to answer with our recent cybersecurity and data privacy survey. Conducting this survey – and sharing and learning from the results – is part of Entrust’s strategy to tackle the trust issue head-on.

Identity Theft, the Leading Fear

Survey results indicate 20 percent of Americans don’t trust anyone to protect their personal data. That’s not good. But it’s probably not all that surprising, either.

The number one fear related to privacy, security and trust relative to online personal data sharing is identity theft, Entrust’s research indicates. A whopping 68 percent of Americans cited identity theft as the leading fear.

Concerns about identity theft are well founded. Thieves who steal people’s identities can use them to empty financial accounts and steal medical records. They can enter another country under an assumed identity and commit crimes. And they can sell other people’s data and identities on the black market.

A Cry for Stricter Rules and Punishment

The stakes here are so high that some people are calling for specific actions, rules and enforcement, with punishment for individuals and organizations that fail to address these important concerns.

Thirty-eight percent of Entrust’s survey participants said organizations should fire their chief information security officers following a hack. Nearly a third said businesses should deal with CTOs in the same way in such instances.

More than half said governments should impose fines on organizations that expose consumer data that is supposed to be kept private. And 38 percent want to see laws to fine or imprison top executives at organizations that don’t keep consumer data safe.

A Need for Greater Control

That said, it makes sense that many of the more than 1,000 American adults Entrust surveyed want more control over their personal data privacy. More than a third of survey participants expressed this sentiment.

But it’s clear they can’t do it alone, and many people seem to understand that. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said they want help to keep their personal data private.

Meanwhile, 48 percent said they want to be able to opt out of data collection. And 48 percent want the option to prevent their data from being stored forever.

An Opportunity to Educate

Providing people with a greater sense of control tends to build their trust and comfort levels. That’s why airlines like British Airways address fear of flying by providing people with information about how planes work, how pilots train and how turbulence is typically only a nuisance. Educating people about their experiences tends to give them a greater sense of control over those experiences.

Similarly, businesses that explain how they’re securing personal identities and other vital information through the use of data encryption can assuage fears about cyberattacks, ID theft and privacy invasion. One recent example of a company doing just that is Facebook. The organization announced it was revamping its strategy to focus on encrypting its messaging apps, and expanded on why the technology would be beneficial for consumers.

Forty percent of survey respondents said they would trust a company that uses data encryption to protect their personal information. And while nearly 40 percent of survey participants said they were not familiar with encryption and its benefits, that creates an opening for organizations to educate people on the importance of working with businesses that employ encryption to keep their data safe in this increasingly connected online world.

Questions or comments? You can find me on Twitter @Pgalvin63.