At best, hackers will sell your personal data. At worst, they’ll control your car’s brakes while you’re driving.

The border wall debate is front and center in the White House. But throughout the rest of the country, Americans worry more about their data privacy than border security.

That’s what a study from digital service firm Vrge Analytics found — 63 percent of Americans say “making sure our computers are protected and privacy [is] respected” trumps the importance of border security. But despite people’s growing data privacy concerns, they’re still not doing much to protect themselves.

The latest statistics from the Federal Trade Commission show that identity theft victims from 2016 didn’t take as many security precautions than 2013 victims. The FTC’s study showed decreases in…

  • Installing and regularly updating computer security systems (by 30.6 percent)
  • Shopping only on known websites (by 21.9 percent)
  • Avoiding sharing Social Security numbers unless necessary (by 16.5 percent)
  • Using numbers and letters to make passwords at least eight characters (by 15.9 percent)

These behaviors are juxtaposed with people’s elevated distrust in social media and businesses when it comes to their data protection, according to Pew Research.

Being careless with your data can have perilous consequences — both financially and physically. Hackers can take control of your brakes on the road, both Geico and Esurance have admitted.

Big data and privacy: How we give up our information

Every time you volunteer your email or phone number for a 15 percent off coupon, you’ve given up identifying information. Here are some other ways you’re giving up your privacy and not realizing it…

Data privacy and cars

New vehicles with internet technology, or “connected cars,” give automakers the ability to create more safety features, according to a joint study from automotive data company Otonomo and market research company Edison Research.

Despite all the noise around data breaches, new car buyers are sharing personal data for features, like…

  • Safety alerts
  • Maintenance warnings
  • Traffic updates
  • Faster response times from emergency responders in case of an accident

“While consumer trust in some industries is trending very low right now, car manufacturers are amongst the most trusted in terms of how they treat customer data,” says Edison Research VP Tom Webster. “This paints a very compelling picture for the future capabilities of the connected car.”

Data privacy and social media

Some of last year’s biggest talking points were Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. In response, Americans question how platforms use their data more than ever. But the more we learn, the less we mind.

In light of Cambridge Analytica, an Insights Network survey found last year that almost half of Americans have considered deleting one of their social media accounts, and 12 percent already have. Of those who deleted a social media account, 78 percent chose their Facebook profile for the chopping block.

But Facebook doesn’t actually “sell” data. It operates its services free of charge with ad revenue’s support. Facebook allows brands to tailor ads to specific demographics, according to a Motley Fool article published in USA Today.

Data privacy and businesses and retailers

Consumers are increasingly handing over their personal information to get hyper-specific messages — and some companies are doing a better job of using that information than others.

Americans tend to trust retailers the most, particularly those online. A joint poll from Georgetown University and New York University found that Amazon is the second-most trusted institution in the country. (Ahead of Amazon is the military, and below it is Google.)

Debt.com previously reported in its 2018 Identity Theft Analysis that 53 percent of U.S. businesses were hacked in 2017 — regardless of size. Data from Oxford Economics found that just 8 percent of people trust businesses to “keep their personal information secure.”

Data privacy and old devices

If you’ve ever gotten rid of old computer hard drives or devices, you’ve probably left some trace of your personal data on them. It’s common — and dangerous. The personal data you hand over leaves you more vulnerable to identity theft.

Even data you believe is private on your current devices is fair game for internet service providers. Last year, President Trump reversed regulations that barred companies like Comcast and Verizon from selling your information to advertisers. Now providers can access your online purchases, search history, and even your location, Debt.com previously reported.

Simple steps to increase data privacy

 

  • Decline to give your contact information. Almost anywhere you shop these days, cashiers will blithely request your phone number or email address before processing your purchase. Why? Like those free reward cards, it’s an easy way to tie together your shopping habits and build a customer profile.
  • Use privacy plugins. The privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends some tools you can install in your web browser to block ads and thwart data collection.
  • Call or email your Congresspeople. You can look up your House representative here and your senators here. Tell them you want more legislation passed like Vermont’s recent data broker act, which enforces sanctions on brokers that maliciously sell your information.

To learn more, visit Debt.com’s how-to guide on protecting yourself from online identity theft.

Kristen Grau contributed to this report.

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

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Pye is the associate editor of Debt.com.

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Article last modified on February 11, 2019 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Americans Care More About Data Privacy But Are Doing Less About It - AMP.