More Than 3 in 4 Americans Agree That Ownership of Their Personal Data Should Be a Constitutional Right

New Ghostery report shows that even in extenuating circumstances, consumers have clear and specific expectations of their rights with regard to their data, and they aren’t being met


NEW YORK – July 7, 2020 – Ghostery, the digital intelligence company known for its ad and tracker-blocking privacy products, today released its “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Report,” revealing a disconnect between consumer trust in data handling practices by big tech companies and the government, and their expectations around personal data ownership as a constitutional right.


The study, conducted online with the third-party research firm YouGov, uncovered not only consumers’ gripes around the current approach big tech companies and the government are taking with consumer privacy, but also outlined consumers’ own ideas for what a fair legal framework for data privacy would look like – including consent and monetary payment for certain pieces of information.


“For years, Americans have voiced growing concerns over how their data is collected, stored and sold by companies, and when looking to federal authorities to protect them in this regard, all they’ve been able to count on is inaction,” said Jeremy Tillman, President, Ghostery. “State by state, there are a hodgepodge of laws addressing consumer privacy but none have asked consumers directly what they want their protection to look like. We’ve asked them, and their voice is loud and clear, privacy is a human right and without consent or payment, their data should remain theirs.”


Privacy Reigns Supreme – Pandemic or Not

More than 3 in 4 Americans (77%) agreed that ownership of their personal data should be a constitutional right. Many also reinforced that these expectations around data privacy are not lessened due to the pandemic, implying that the surveillance-tech solutions being developed in response need to remain privacy-conscious. More than 1 in 3 Americans (35%) agreed that even in times of crisis, they do not trust that the organizations that have access to personal information and location data will keep it private and anonymized.


Americans also voiced dissatisfaction in the government’s role in offering protection. More than 2 in 3 Americans (68%) agreed the government does a poor or inadequate job of regulating and disciplining organizations that abuse how they use consumers’ personal data.


What Consumers Want from a Privacy Bill of Rights

Survey respondents indicated explicit consent and payment for data as the two most desired components for privacy regulation. More than 4 in 5 Americans (83%) agreed they deserve the right to give clear and explicit consent to any company before any data collection begins. Additionally, 3 in 4 Americans (75%) agreed that if any company wants to use their data, they should be paid for it.


When considering payment in exchange for data, internet browsing history ranked as one of the top five pieces of data that holds the highest in monetary value for nearly half (49%) of Americans, followed by:

  • Income and occupation: 46% of Americans
  • Location data: 45% of Americans
  • Email content: 37% of Americans
  • Age: 34% of Americans


Americans also indicated that products shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. If a consumer doesn’t consent to data collection, they should still have product options. The survey revealed 78% of Americans agree that companies should create versions of products that do not collect or share data for anyone that does not consent to data collection.


“Despite the recent spotlight on location data due to the development of COVID-19 contact tracing apps, consumers are still most united on their desire to keep their browsing data private,” said Tillman. “Right now, the internet is the wild, wild west when it comes to how browsing data is collected and shared behind the scenes of just about any webpage. This study highlights the need for privacy regulation to be put in the hands of consumers, rather than lawmakers who have seen millions of lobbying dollars from big tech companies whose interests in consumer data are opposite to the consumers themselves.”


The full Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Report can be accessed here.