Data Privacy and Security - Women's Stories

Published on Topic: Privacy

For many months data privacy and security has been dominating the headlines.  There is an on-going news stream about credit card data stolen from major retailers and other consumer-facing businesses. Just this week the popular restaurant chain, P.F. Chang’s, and late last year, the massive Target breach. It is estimated that over half of all American’s have had their private information breached in one way or another. And, don’t forget about the revelations of the NSA’s spying effort and the Snowden affair.  

We wondered how women are feeling about all of this Orwellian activity. We just completed a SheByShe survey on data privacy. We collected stories and insights from more than 40 women who weighed in with their stories and thoughts.  We were surprised more women did not participate since privacy and data security is a topic that touches all of us. How do you feel? Share your own stories in the comments below.

About half the women who participated in the survey have had their credit card data stolen or lost in a data breach.  More than a few were victims of the Target mishap, and the others fell victim to common scenarios.  As one women recalled, “Not sure how or why, but my personal information was stored on a contractor's laptop that was stolen.”

Credit card data breaches don’t completely destroy customer loyalty.  Although they had to endure the hassles of being a credit card breach victim, most women still shop at the store where it occurred.  About 25 percent of the participating women said they would stop shopping at a store if they found out it had been breached.

Similarly, about half the women who participated in the study have had a social media account hacked.  One woman shared, “My Facebook page was used to spam those on my friends list.” 

Another survey participant had a double-whammy, “I have had my personal and my work email compromised and spam emails sent out with my name email address on them.”

Two of the women had the ultimate nightmare happen:  their identities were stolen.  One woman shared that she ended up with bad credit after it occurred.  Another said that someone used her identity to take out a car loan in Las Vegas.

When asked about the NSA spying activity, there was more emotional ire.  Most of the women who participated in this research expressed anger.  One woman said, “I'm very concerned about [what the NSA is doing].  I think it shows a bad trend in government behavior.  Much worse, though, is the fact that so many people don't seem to care.”

Another woman is deeply concerned about who will see the NSA data.  She stated, “I think it is wrong. I feel it is an invasion of our privacy. I feel no matter what data they discover, it will be shared—even if it is not a threat to national security. The government can't secure their own information, so I know mine won’t be secure either.”

There is a feeling of futility.  As one participant said, “[This is] HORRIBLE. I feel so sad because everything inside of me feels it's wrong, and it makes me feel powerless because I don't know how to make a change.”

A few women expressed ambivalence, and a few others support the broad, sweeping program.  “While I understand it violates our rights of privacy, it may be necessary to protect us,” reflected one woman.

So it is not surprising that about two-thirds of the participating women wish the government would do more to protect privacy.  And, nearly all the survey participants think retailers should do more to protect credit and debit card data.  One woman said, “I think major businesses should do more to protect their customers’ personal information.  Instead of trying to ‘mine data’ so they can sell to me later, they should focus more attention on protecting my information!”

Another woman shared, “I know that our information is out there and accessible.  There will always be someone who is able to obtain your information without your knowledge.  Even if people aren't seeking to get your information from the Internet, there are other people who can get your credit card information or driver’s license information, etc.--like the clerk at the store, or the waiter at the restaurant.  They all have our information at their fingertips, and if they want it bad enough, they will figure out a way to get it for themselves.”

Perhaps this survey participant sums up what many women think, “We live in a strange time and it will be interesting to see how things change as technology gets more and more advanced and reaches deeper into our lives.”

How about you?  What do you think about the current state of personal data privacy and security?  Is it a red-hot issue, or a new reality we all have to live with?