Consumer Attitudes Toward Data Breach Notifications and Loss of Personal Information

The Rand Corporation has released a study by Lillian Ablon, Paul Heaton, Diana Lavery, and Sasha Romanosky on consumer reactions to data breaches. In some respects, the findings don’t exactly match what you may have been led to believe by other studies. As I’ve commented in the past, surveys that ask consumers what they would do may yield different results than studies that ask consumers what they actually did.

Data breaches continue to plague private-sector companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Despite the mounting rate of these breaches, the continuing harms imposed on consumers and firms, and over a decade of breach notification laws, very little research exists that examines consumer response to these developments. This report sets out the results of a nationally representative survey of the consumer experience with data breaches: the frequency of notifications of data breaches and the type of data taken; consumer attitudes toward data breaches, breach notifications, and company follow-on responses; and perceived personal costs resulting from the breach, with the goal to establish a baseline of information about consumer attitudes toward data loss and company practices in responding to such events.

Key findings include: (1) Twenty-six percent of respondents, or an estimated 64 million U.S. adults, recalled a breach notification in the past 12 months; (2) 44 percent of those notified were already aware of the breach; (3) 62 percent of respondents accepted offers of free credit monitoring; (4) only 11 percent of respondents stopped dealing with the affected company following a breach; (5) 32 percent of respondents reported no costs of the breach and any inconvenience it garnered, while, among those reporting some cost, the median cost was $500; and (6) 77 percent of respondents were highly satisfied with the company’s post-breach response.

Read more on Rand’s site. You can download a free copy of the report in pdf.

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