Americans see data disclosure by internet companies or authorities as one of biggest threats to data security, survey finds

U.S. Americans are concerned about the security of their personal data. For the majority (52%), the greatest threat comes from a hacker attack on their most important online accounts, such as email, social networks or banking. In second place, at 49 percent, is loss of control through disclosure of data by internet services or authorities. In third place, at 46 percent, is the loss of debit or credit cards. These are the results of a survey commissioned by the email provider

Significantly lower risks are posed by a home burglary (26%), the loss of documents and photos in a fire (25%) and the theft of mail from the mailbox (23%). Only six percent are not worried about their data at all.

"People are most concerned about their digital accounts because that is increasingly where the really important data is," says Jan Oetjen, CEO of "In addition to individual security precautions such as strong passwords and two-factor authentication, it is important that users can rely on compliance with strict data protection regulations."

Digital security measures

What are the most common security measures used by Americans? Most respondents (57%) use strong passwords. 53 percent are careful not to visit suspicious websites or click on unsafe links. Forty-seven percent are careful with emails that bear signs of phishing. And just as many (47%) use virus scanners and firewalls. 

Significantly fewer (34%) use two-factor authentication to secure important online accounts. Only 28% of Americans also perform regular data backups. The respondents were largely unconcerned when it came to using smartphone apps: Only around one in three (32%) check the apps' access to their personal profile. 

Underestimated email risks 

Only about one in ten (11%) protect their emails with end-to-end encryption. This prevents unauthorized third parties from reading the content of emails. The danger of spam emails is generally underestimated: Only 48 percent of Americans see it as a security risk. One in four (25%) has difficulty distinguishing spam emails from genuine newsletters or serious correspondence.

In addition, there is a lack of knowledge about how to effectively protect themselves from malicious email that the provider's spam filter has not detected. For example, 42 percent of respondents simply delete spam emails. It is better to mark spam messages as such or move them to the spam folder of the email inbox in order to train the provider's spam filters. However, only 24 percent of Americans actually do so. More than one in ten (13%) try to unsubscribe from spam using the "unsubscribe" link that is often included in a malicious email or by replying. In this way, the internet criminal learns that the email account is active. This increases the risk of further spam mails and at the same time the danger of data misuse.

About the survey method: The data used is based on an online survey conducted by YouGov Deutschland GmbH, in which 1,326 people took part between June 10 and June 13, 2021. The results were weighted and are representative of the U.S. population aged 18 and older.