Experian releases troubling survey for Data Privacy Day

In the age of IoT, connected robotics, and wearables, more data is collected than ever before. Why are we still so bad at data privacy?

Today is Data Privacy Day. That's the digital age equivalent of "Eat Your Veggies" day, so you're forgiven if you don't feel like leaping for joy.

(Or maybe DPD ranks high on your annual celebration calendar? If that's the case, and if you happen to have dressed up for the occasion, please tweet me a photo. PLEASE.)

Launched 35 years ago as Data Protection Day, the idea was to raise awareness about privacy and data security as our lives become increasingly digital.

That awareness is more important than ever before because our lives are due to become A LOT more connected. Distributed sensors in our homes, at work, and in public--so-called IoT devices--are beginning to suck up massive quantities of data and personal information. According to CMO by Adobe, by 2020, 50 billion "things" will be connected to the internet. By 2019, companies will ship 1.9 billion connected home devices.

Meanwhile, robots are starting to make their way into the home. Sensor-rich platforms that move around autonomously ... what could go wrong?

So has Data Privacy Day been working?

Not if a new survey from credit-tracking agency Experian has anything to say about it. Experian surveyed consumers nationally on topics related to cybersecurity and their use of the Internet and mobile devices. Many of the results are ho-hum (turns out most people, 83 percent, think technology has helped them connect with people in their life), but some of the findings are downright discouraging.

For example, only 36 percent of survey respondents review privacy policies when notified of changes by institutions they do business with, and just 28 percent review privacy policies of mobile apps before downloading them. Going forward, that suggests that people will be likely to use connected devices without much understanding of the privacy implications.

More troubling, the survey found that a lot of people still engage in some pretty foolish and decidedly insecure online practices:

  • More than 50 percent do not check to see if a Website is secure;
  • Fifty percent do not have all of their Web-enabled devices password-protected because it's a hassle to enter a password (30 percent) or they don't feel it's necessary (25 percent);
  • Fifty-five percent do not close the Web browser when they are finished using an online account;
  • Fifteen percent keep a written record of passwords and PINs in their purse or wallet or on a mobile device or computer.

That's in spite of the fact that pretty much everyone recognizes the importance of data security. The survey found that 93 percent feel identity theft is a growing problem, while 91 percent believe that people should be more concerned about the issue.

Clearly we as a technological community have a long way to go when it comes to putting those concerns into practice. Maybe dressing up for Data Privacy Day isn't such a bad idea. I'm gonna go as a mobile X-Ray tech. Screenings are free, but I get to sell the results to the highest bidder.