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Americans Have Little Trust In Online Security

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cellphone in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cellphone in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Americans Have Little Trust In Online Security
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Americans do not believe their personal information is safe online, suggests findings from a new poll. They also are not satisfied with the federal government's efforts to protect such information.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MeriTalk did the polling. It found that 64 percent of Americans say their social media activity is not secure. About as many have the same safety concerns about online information that shares their physical location. Half of Americans also believe their private text messages are not secure.

They are not just concerned. They want the federal government to do something about it. Almost 75 percent of Americans say they support creating laws for how companies can collect, use and share personal data.

Jennifer Benz is the head of the AP-NORC Center. “What is surprising to me is that there is a great deal of support for more government action to protect data privacy,” she said.

But after years of failed efforts to create stronger data privacy laws, Americans do not trust the government to fix the problem.

A majority of those who took part in the poll said they have more trust in private companies than the federal government to address security and privacy issues. This comes even after years of hacks of U.S. corporations that shared the personal information of millions of people around the world.

“I feel there is little to no security whatsoever," said Sarah Blick. She is a professor at Kenyon College in Ohio. Officials at the college told Blick earlier this year that someone had used her identity to seek unemployment insurance money.

AP Poll-Digital Privacy-Security
AP Poll-Digital Privacy-Security

Such fraud has greatly increased since the pandemic began.

The poll answers showed that about 71 percent of Americans believe that individuals’ data privacy should be treated as a national security issue. But only 23 percent are satisfied in the federal government’s current efforts.

Terri Carver is a Republican Party state lawmaker in Colorado and the writer of a data privacy bill that will take effect there in 2023.

The law follows similar measures passed in California and Virginia, and gives people the right to find and delete personal information. Colorado's law also permits people to opt out of having their data tracked and sold. Facebook and other companies opposed the bill.

“There’s great frustration that individuals have that they don’t have the tools and the legal support to establish any kind of effective control over their personal data,” Carver said.

She hopes the efforts by Colorado and other states push Congress to make national protections.

The poll showed that protecting personal information online is “an area where people do see a direct role in government,” Benz said.

I’m Dan Novak.

Matt O’Brien reported this story for The Associated Press. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

poll n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something​

text —​ n. data handled by a computer, cell phone, etc., that is mostly in the form of words​

hackn. to secretly get access to the files on a computer or network in order to get information, cause damage, etc.

insurance —​ n. an agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house or car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen​

fraud —​ n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person​

opt out n. an opportunity to choose not to do or take part in something

frustration n. a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something : the state of being frustrated​

role —​ n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation