We’re Afraid of Getting Hacked, but We’re Not Doing Much About It

"People are saying, ‘I’m not the DNC, I’m not Hillary’s campaign,'” says a pollster.

A hack at Sony Pictures that exposed more than 170,000 emails in 2014 derailed a much-hyped film's release and prompted a months-long industry freakout. A hacking incident at Yahoo now threatens to derail a sale to Verizon. WikiLeaks' releases of Democratic officials' hacked private emails are providing near-endless fodder for Donald Trump's presidential campaign. 

And yet, while large numbers of Americans appreciate the threat of getting hacked, they don’t seem to be changing their behaviors in any appreciable way. 

That’s a key finding of a new poll of views of online privacy, funded by Craig Newmark, the founder of classified-ad website Craigslist. The poll, overseen by Rad Campaign, a creative agency, and Lincoln Park Strategies, a research firm, found that trust in social networks has declined over the past two years, even as people use those same networks in greater numbers.

The margin of error is plus or minus 3.07 percent.
The margin of error is plus or minus 3.07 percent.
Courtesy of Rad Campaign/Lincoln Park Strategies/craigconnects

Since the group last polled the public in 2014, the percentage of people worried about threats like malware and identity theft either fell or held constant. This year's poll found that a large majority of Americans, 69 percent, is concerned about email hacking—but that's down from 71 percent in 2014.

That’s surprising, given that the 2014 poll was conducted before the Sony Pictures hack, widely considered a wakeup call that companies should be more careful with their data.

Most people don’t appear to have taken this message to heart, said Stefan Hankin, the Lincoln Park Strategies pollster. “People are saying, ‘I’m not the DNC, I’m not Hillary’s campaign,'” Hankin said. “People should be freaked out, but they’re not connecting the dots.”

Not yet, anyway. Hankin thinks that at some point consumers will begin to punish companies that don’t care for their data. “We’re one more hack away,” he said, from people beginning to take security and privacy more seriously.

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