Control is a loaded term, and can be perceived as a negative, but almost everyone wants to have some measure of control and considers control a good thing.

People want more control of their personal data

American Customer Satisfaction Index founder Claes Fornell said consumers are more satisfied when they have a greater sense of control. Yet in our data-driven world, in which people seem to have more power than ever, Americans often feel they lack control over their data privacy.

Most people are protective of their private information and uncertain about just exactly which online sites are storing their personal data. But the majority of them would prefer that the organizations that do have their information keep it to themselves. Many are unsure how they can take control of their data – or whether that’s even possible. And most would like an easy way to understand and track which online entities are storing their personal data.

Americans continue to be protective of their private information

A recent Entrust Security survey indicates that the majority of Americans (62%) are not comfortable with organizations sharing their private information. Only about a fourth (26%) of the 1,000-person nationwide survey group said it is ok for organizations to share their personal data.

Americans revealed that they do not want organizations to share their personal information due to concerns about privacy and trust. Half of the survey group said that data privacy is important to them. The other half expressed distrust that companies will keep their private data secure.

A significant share – 44% – of Americans said under no circumstances would they want an organization to share their personal information. But some said they would make an exception in special circumstances. For example:

  • 25% said data sharing would be ok if their personal safety was at risk
  • 17% said they would be comfortable with the sharing of their personal information to benefit the efforts of Homeland Security
  • 17% said they would be happy to share their personal data in return for $1 million

Despite business efforts to communicate privacy commitment, Americans remain skeptical

Most of us are aware that there’s a consumer trust issue when it comes to personal data privacy. Many organizations have responded by trying to convince customers and prospects about their commitment to safeguarding personal data. In fact, a majority of Americans (55%) said they have noticed a recent uptick in notifications – in the form of emails, letters and pop-up windows – about data privacy protection efforts.

Here’s more good news: the message seems to be getting through to most Americans. According to the Entrust survey, 58% of Americans said they understand the data privacy protection notifications they receive.

Here’s the not-so-good news:

  • 35% said they do not read such notifications, which can be overwhelming
  • 28% said it takes too much time and effort to read such notifications
  • 27% said they understand such notifications only some of the time
  • 24% said they believe such notifications are an effort to protect the organizations that send them rather than their own personal privacy
  • 18% said notifications are immaterial because their data is at risk regardless

Most Americans think they have some control of their data – but doubt, fear loom

More than half of Americans (56%) believe they have the right to delete their personal data from online sources whenever they want. But a good share of Americans said they are uncertain about just exactly what their rights are relative to personal data privacy and control.

A quarter of the survey respondents said they are unsure whether they have the right to request and expect online sources to delete the personal data they have captured. And nearly a fifth (19%) said they do not believe they have the right to delete their private information.

Nearly half (45%) of Americans said it would not be easy to have their personal information removed from online entities even if they wanted that to happen. And the majority of Americans (61%) said even if they put in a request to have their private data deleted, they wouldn’t trust that the organization to which they made that request would never again have access to that information.

The bottom line: Americans don’t know where their private data is, but they want to know

Clearly, there’s a lot of mistrust and mystery about how organizations are handling Americans’ personal data and which entities are storing and sharing what information.

Over half (52%) of the Entrust survey respondents said they do not know which online sites currently have their personal information. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise, as it can be difficult to remember every entity with which we interact. And data sharing means we don’t necessarily have to have a relationship with the entities that have our personal data.

Whether or not people believe they know who has access to their personal data – and whether and to what extent those entities are guarding the privacy and security of that information – many Americans would like to take control of their personal data privacy. The fact that 50% of the survey group said they would take advantage of a way to keep track of all the online sites that store their personal information illustrates that point.

But mass adoption of such an approach would hinge on its ease of use, affordability and effectiveness. Only 17% of the survey group said they would be interested in tracking the online sites that store their personal information if that process was easy. Thirteen percent said whether they would take advantage of such a capability would depend on the cost. And 8% apparently have completely given up the idea of taking control of their personal data privacy – saying hackers can get their information anyway.

It’s up to businesses to convince them otherwise and demonstrate how advanced cryptographic solutions can secure their data and their personal privacy. When we as businesses take control of personal data privacy, we give customers a greater sense of control. That lowers risks for both our own businesses and our customers. And as Mr. Fornell would probably tell you, that can go a long way toward building customer loyalty and satisfaction.

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