Data breaches nail more US Internet users, regulation support rises

Nearly 80 percent of US Internet users want data-sharing restrictions through government regulation, one survey says

More U.S. Internet users report they have been victims of data breach, while 80 percent want additional restrictions against sharing of online data, according to two surveys released Monday.

While nearly half of all U.S. Internet users avoid at least one type of online service because of privacy concerns, according to a survey by marketing research firm GfK, 18 percent reported as of January that important personal information was stolen from them online, a poll from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found. That's an increase from 11 percent last July.

"As online Americans have become ever more engaged with online life, their concerns about the amount of personal information available about them online have shifted as well," Mary Madden, a senior researcher at Pew, wrote in a blog post. "When we look at how broad measures of concern among adults have changed over the past five years, we find that internet users have become more worried about the amount of personal information available about them online."

In January, 50 percent of Pew survey respondents said they were concerned about the amount of personal information available online, compared to just 33 percent in 2009.

The survey was done before recent revelations of the Heartbleed OpenSSL bug, Madden noted.

The GfK survey, of U.S. Internet users in early March, which found that 48 percent of respondents avoid at least one type of online service because of privacy concerns, also found that 59 percent of those polled are more concerned about online data security than they were a year ago.

Eighteen percent of respondents avoid online auctions, 17 percent avoid online banking, and 16 percent avoid social networks, according to the survey.

As expected, older respondents expressed more worries about online privacy, but members of so-called Generation Z, born after the mid-'90s, generally had greater concerns than the two generations between them and baby boomers, the survey said. One-third of all respondents said they have been affected by the misuse of personal data at least once.

Fifty-four percent, including two-thirds of respondents who are in the baby boom or older generations, said they believe the U.S. government is not doing enough to protect residents' data. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said the U.S. government should have more regulations "preventing organizations from repurposing personal data to third parties."

GfK asked respondents what types of organizations they trusted most to protect their personal data. Doctors and health-care organizations scored the highest, with online payment systems, online retailers and banks also earning the trust of more than 60 percent of respondents.

Just 39 percent said they trusted online social networks to protect their personal information, while less than 30 percent said they trusted international businesses and marketers and advertisers.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

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Tags securityMary MaddengfkPew Research Center's Internet and American Life ProjectIdentity fraud / theftinternetprivacy

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