Data Lab 🧪

National Privacy Survey 2020: What Americans Want in a National Privacy Law

We asked over a thousand Americans what they want in a national privacy law. This is what they said.

Privacy is our business. So we decided to take the pulse of privacy in America, to see how most Americans felt about the state of privacy today. In our inaugural our latest National Privacy Survey, we surveyed 1,001 Americans to learn about their perceptions of privacy management, as well as their expectations and desires for greater data controls within the context of a national privacy law. Here’s what we found.

“It shouldn’t be difficult or confusing to exercise your privacy rights. But that’s not what’s happening: the majority of consumers feel that privacy management isn’t living up to their expectations.”

-Harry Maugans, Privacy Bee CEO

Key findings: Americans want a national privacy law

There’s a major gap between what citizens want and what the government delivers:

  • For 74% of Americans, “it’s about time” that America has a national privacy law.
  • Yet only 27% of respondents believe the U.S. government and regulators are doing enough to protect data privacy.
  • 88% of respondents think it’s important to know how corporations use their personal data.
  • 83% of respondents believe the right to be forgotten is important or very important.
  • 73% of respondents believe an expiration date on personal data is important.

What Americans expect from a national privacy law

Most Americans want more control over their data and their privacy. When it comes to what American expect from a national privacy law, they say the following rights are important or very important: 

  • …the right to know how corporations use their personal data (88%)
  • …the right to know how corporations got their data in the first place (88%)
  • …the right to download personal data held by corporations (84%)
  • …the right to be forgotten (83%) 
  • …the right to put an expiration date on personal data (73%)

The right to an expiration date is especially intriguing. Some brands already allow users to delete data after a certain point, such as Google’s auto-delete controls for Location History and Web & App Activity.

But the ability to choose how long personal data can be shared, held, or otherwise used by a corporation would be a big step towards complete data privacy control. Especially since many people are ok with some measure of data sharing, this would empower consumers to better manage their preferred data privacy profile on a company-by-company basis.

The current state of privacy 

Everyone deserves their privacy. And it’s top of mind with many Americans, who expect stronger privacy controls and data management rights than they current have.

We found a disconnect between what consumers expect and what they’re getting. While 82% agree or strongly agree that privacy management should be convenient and easy, that’s not what’s happening.

In fact, the most frequent words used to describe the state of privacy management were “difficult,” (24%) “complicated,” (28%) “confusing,” (24%) and “powerless.” (21%).

The vast majority of feelings were negative, underscoring just how frustrated Americans are with how difficult it is to take control of their personal data.

Trust in companies

There’s also low confidence among many consumers in the overall safety and privacy protection of our digital lives. And there’s a large chunk of the country that isn’t quite sure about their data’s safety — a warning sign that corporations and governments aren’t doing enough to protect consumers.

  • Only 31% are confident that their personal data is safe and protected while using computers and digital services. Interestingly enough, 26% are neutral, which underscores the continued importance of education around data protection best practices. 
  • Only 39% agree or strongly agree that they trust companies to protect personal data and privacy. 37% do not trust companies at all, while 21% remain neutral.

Trust in government

The U.S. government could also do more to protect citizens. Politicians and regulators have an opportunity to give citizens what they crave — a national approach to privacy that offers consistency and control.

  • 51% disagree or strongly disagree that the government is doing enough when it comes to data privacy and protecting our personal data from hackers.

Clearly, more must be down to empower citizens with tools to manage and protect their data privacy. Americans agree: the time is now for a national privacy law!

“The U.S. government and regulators have an opportunity to give citizens what they crave — a national approach to privacy that offers consistency and control.”

Privacy Bee CEO Harry Maugans

Download the full report What Americans Want from a National Data Privacy Law.