Most Americans are worried about how companies and governments will use technology like facial recognition and encryption, and how it will affect their data and security, according to a new survey from VPN provider ExpressVPN.

The survey of 1,200 adults revealed Americans’ deep concern for online privacy (96%), and who do not support (53%) the encryption backdoors required by the US government.

Survey participants said they’re willing to take what some might consider drastic actions to proactively protect themselves. If they found out their personal information had been sold to a third party, 92% of Americans would delete a regularly used app.

SEE: Phishing attacks: A guide for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The report coyly noted that 56% of Americans said they’d rather read through an app’s terms and conditions, than watch the much-maligned 2019 movie “Cats.”

Going off the internet grid is preferable to having personal info exposed online, and 67% polled said they would pay to completely delete all their past personal data, as well as to pull their online footprint completely off the internet. This includes 4% who said they’d pay more than $1,000 to do so.

More than half of Americans (53%) are resolutely skeptical and don’t believe Apple’s privacy stance, where it asserts, “what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

Only 9% of Americans fully trust companies are protecting their online data privacy, and a paltry 10% are “very confident” that big tech companies actually comply with current data privacy regulations.

“We all need to be taking proactive steps to protect ourselves and manage how much data we’re giving to businesses in the first place,” said Harold Li, vice president, ExpressVPN.

Big brother access

The same percentage (53%) of the aforementioned skeptics say tech giants should not provide encryption backdoors to the US government—relevant because tech companies like Facebook, Apple and Huawei are participating in discussions on encryption backdoors for law enforcement.

No government protection for online personal info

Regarding regulations, 54% admit they’re unfamiliar with the current US data privacy laws and 56% incorrectly believe there is a national data privacy law that protects internet users.

In fact, the ExpressVPN report noted that the US currently doesn’t have any centralized, formal legislation at the federal level, to deal with the electronic transmission of personal data.

Former democratic presidential candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently proposed a new Data Protection Act, which would create a new independent agency, the Data Protection Agency, to protect consumer data and have the authority to enforce data practices throughout the country.

If a law permitted it, Americans (84%) plan to exercise their right to have websites and online services remove their personal information when they ask.

Wary of Facebook

They are also not immune to Facebook‘s woes. The social media giant’s much publicized privacy scandals resulted in 42% using Facebook a lot less or have deleted themselves entirely.

Confidence is generally pretty low:

  • 53% do not feel confident that Facebook truly wants to protect its users’ privacy
  • 46% do not feel confident that Facebook executives are actively working to improve user privacy
  • 61% are not confident that Instagram is better at protecting personal data than Facebook

That text-heavy “terms and conditions” page

Most of us toss aside paper versions and skip to click the “next” button where “terms and conditions” are concerned. Such was the case in 2019, when a previous ExpressVPN survey revealed that only 19% polled reported reading through terms and conditions. A growing number of people are concerned about protecting themselves and their personal data. The latest survey showed 37% now read the terms and conditions for all the apps on their phones.

Facial recognition tech, yay or nay?

It may be cool and a little “James Bond”-like for facial recognition to allow passage on an elevator or into a gated community.

More than half of Americans (59%) are comfortable with using facial recognition technology to unlock their devices, but beyond that, they are less keen on its use potential (68%), and an even larger number (78%) are worried about potential abuse of the tech.

Surprisingly, 63% said they’re comfortable with facial recognition identifying and tagging people on their Facebook photos.

Americans at the breaking point

“The biggest takeaway,” Li said, “is that Americans have reached a breaking point where they’re uncomfortable with companies liberally collecting their personal data. People are really waking up to the need to take their online privacy and security into their own hands, and we expect to see more consumers take proactive steps to safeguard their data.”


This survey was conducted January 28-29, 2020 by ExpressVPN, in collaboration with the online sampling service, The sample included 1,200 U.S. adults (18+).

Personal data confidential, seal stamped on folder with important documents
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