Americans don’t trust government or social media to keep their data safe, Pew report says

Half of Americans think their information is less secure lately, and many don’t trust social media or the government to keep their data safe. Yet many Americans also fail to take basic precautions to safeguard their own information.

These are among the findings of a new Pew Research report on cybersecurity released Thursday.

More than 45 percent of those surveyed were “somewhat confident” that wireless providers, email providers and retailers/businesses can keep their information safe. But only 38 percent feel the same way about social media sites, and 37 percent feel that way about the government.

As for those who are “not at all confident” that the aforementioned entities can protect their data, here’s the breakdown: government, 28 percent; social media sites, 24 percent; wireless providers and retailers/businesses, 15 percent; email providers, 13 percent.

How are Americans protecting their own information? They aren’t listening to security experts, for one thing. The report found that only 12 percent of internet users say they use a password-management program, while 86 percent store passwords in their heads and 49 percent write down their passwords on paper. Twenty-four percent have their passwords stored on their computer or mobile device.

In addition, 28 percent of those surveyed say they use no screen lock on their mobile phones.

The Pew study was conducted from March 30 to May 3, 2016, among a national sample of 1,040 adults.

Another notable point: Americans are almost evenly divided about whether “the government should be able to access people’s encrypted communications when investigating crimes,” with 46 percent of those surveyed agreeing with that statement and 44 percent agreeing that “technology companies should be able to use encryption technology that is unbreakable, even to law enforcement.”

A previous Pew survey, conducted in February 2016 about Apple’s battle with the government over unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, showed that 51 percent “felt that Apple should be required to unlock the iPhone at the FBI’s request,” while 38 percent said “Apple should not be required to do this.”


Photo illustration from Associated Press


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