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6 Min Read

Americans Protective of Personal Data, Even in a Pandemic – What This Means for Businesses and Government Organizations

September 15, 2020 / Jennifer Bazela

Cybersecurity is easily one of the most pressing issues facing businesses today; it is no secret how damaging an attack can be, both financially and to a company’s reputation. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, as according to the FBI, online crimes reported to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) have increased by 400% as a result of the pandemic, with as many as 4,000 incidents per day.

With high-profile breaches frequenting the headlines, it’s not surprising that Americans are protective of their personal data and how it might be used. The Unisys Security Index™, the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, showed that almost half of Americans (44%) actively do not wish to share their personal data with companies or government agencies during the pandemic, even if doing so could bring potential benefits.

The survey also found that:

  • When it comes to sharing personal data with banks to alert individuals of unusual purchases or possible credit card theft, 40% of Americans are unwilling to do so and 44% are willing.
  • When it comes to sharing personal data with government agencies to expedite access to services such as driver’s licenses and government benefits, 44% are not willing to share, while only 38% are willing.
  • For sharing personal data with retailers in order to receive special offers or information on products and services, more than half (53%) are unwilling to share, while only 30% are willing.
  • The only type of personal data that more than half of Americans are willing to share is their location data with police to find them in the event of an emergency. Among respondents, 53% said that they are willing to do so, with only 32% unwilling.

The most common reason cited for not wanting to share personal data is because Americans do not want that organization to have access to that data (41%).

Given these findings, the question then becomes, “What does this mean for businesses and government organizations?”

The findings underscore how important it is for businesses to focus on establishing trust with their customers. With trust and transparency, businesses and government agencies can establish a higher degree of comfort with their customers when it comes to sharing data that can be invaluable in terms of creating personalized offerings and building customer loyalty. So how can organizations build trust?

While there is no silver bullet, there are clear steps that organizations can take. The COVID-19 pandemic has added a sense of urgency to the importance of prioritizing an organization’s cybersecurity and operational resilience, including leveraging tools like micro-segmentation, encryption and dynamic isolation – which refers to the ability to detect and quickly isolate users at the first sign of compromise – within a matter of seconds.

Additionally, as the level of sophistication of cyber threats continues to evolve, the reality is that an organization is inevitably going to have to come face-to-face with an attack on its network. A proper focus on trust and resilience could be the difference between whether an organization recovers or not.

At Unisys, we tell companies to focus on the need to take out the catastrophe potential. Through software-defined perimeters, organizations can create isolated environments, easily overlaid on existing infrastructure. With that protection in place, if somebody does get in, they’re only going to be able to do a limited amount of damage, because they won’t be able to gain access to other pieces of the network. Resilience is about being prepared to take a hit so an organization can get back on its feet quickly, instead of being down for the count.

The global pandemic has had a major impact across all aspects of life, but it has not made consumers more willing to share personal data. It is up to businesses and government agencies to establish and build trust and resilience with consumers, based on both transparency and a prioritization of strong cyber policies that deliver benefits without inviting risk. By taking relatively small steps now, organizations can be positioned for bigger rewards over time.

For more information about the study or to download a report of the key findings, click here.