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What Would Americans Give Up for Privacy and Security?

We asked 1,000 Americans to answer some tough questions about what privacy and security threats they’d rather experience—and then matched up those answers to find out what Americans were most (and least) willing to risk.

This is what we found.

Main takeaway: Americans are more willing to give up alcohol than we expected

We didn’t expect Americans to choose bourbon over burglary, but we’re a little surprised that 70.8% of those surveyed would rather give up alcohol for an entire month than lose their phones for a few hours.

Americans are also still wary of artificial intelligence and digital assistants. Turns out, 56.8% of respondents would rather give up alcohol for a month than hear Alexa randomly laugh at them.

Other notable highlights

64.3% of respondents would rather lose their dog for two days than have their identity stolen

Americans worry about identity theft

Americans are pretty worried about identity theft, and they’re right to be. Identity theft can have serious financial consequences—especially if someone uses your personal information to access your bank account or take out a loan in your name.

Of those we surveyed, 64.3% of respondents would rather lose their dog for two days than have their identity stolen, and 55.6% of respondents would prefer to have their car stolen than their wallet—probably because cars are insured, but someone who steals your wallet can easily steal your identity.

And speaking of identity theft, 75.8% of respondents would rather have their car stolen than their identity stolen.

Priorities change from one part of the country to the next

There weren’t tons of huge differences from one region to the next, but there were a few outliers.

  • People in the Northeast are willing to have their phones tapped by the NSA if it means they don’t have to deal with losing their dog for two days. People in the South, West, and Midwest all opted for losing their dogs if the alternative was an NSA phone tap.
  • People in the West would rather send an embarrassing photo to the wrong person than have their medical history made public. The rest of the country would rather let their medical history go public.
  • People in the Northeast and Midwest would rather give up alcohol for a month than share their browser history with a significant other, but people in the West and South would rather share their browser history than give up alcohol.

Men and women have different priorities—especially when it comes to private information

We noticed men and women value private information differently.

Women are more protective of their medical history than men

  • The majority of women surveyed would rather share an embarrassing photo with the wrong person than let their medical history be made public. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to choose public medical history over sending an embarrassing photo.

Men are more protective of their browser history

  • The majority of men surveyed would rather give up alcohol for a month than share their browser history with their significant other. Women would rather keep their alcohol.
  • Most men would still share their browser history over losing their dog for two days, but 22.5% of men would rather lose their dogs than share their browser history. Only 10.2% of women chose losing their dogs.

More men were willing to lose a kid at Disneyland than women

  • While the majority of respondents from both genders opted for losing their phone over losing their kid, about 13% of men said they’d rather lose their kid for an hour than lose their phone for three. Only 9% of women chose their phones over kids.

People under 25 would rather have their wallet stolen than their car.

What Americans value varies by age—but not a lot

Most answers were consistent across generations, but there were a few exceptions.

Cars vs. wallets

  • People under 25 would rather have their wallet stolen than their car.
  • People over 25 would rather have their cars stolen.

Browser history vs. alcohol

  • People between the ages of 25 and 54 would rather give up alcohol than show their browser history to their significant other.
  • People younger than 25 and over 54 would rather keep drinking.

Values vary between iOS and Android users

Differences between iOS and Android users go deeper than operating system preference.

NSA phone tap vs. lost dogs

  • 54.51% of iOS users surveyed would rather have their phones tapped by the NSA than lose their dog for two hours
  • 57.56% of Android users surveyed would rather lose their dog for two days than have their phones tapped.

Medical history vs. nanny cam hack

  • A narrow majority (50.24%) of iOS users would rather have their medical history made public than have their nanny cam hacked.
  • 58.13% of Android users would rather have their nanny cam hacked than let their medical history go public.

Not surprisingly, most everyone loves dogs. Overall, people would rather give up alcohol, lose their phones, and have their cars broken into than lose their dogs for two days.

We’re united by our fears—and our love of dogs

One thing that stood out to us was how much people have in common across demographic groups. There were no major differences in fears between educational levels or marital status, and the differences between age groups were rare.

Not surprisingly, most everyone loves dogs. Overall, people would rather give up alcohol, lose their phones, and have their cars broken into than lose their dogs for two days.

What would you rather risk?

Our survey answered lots of questions, but we’d love to hear from you. Do you agree with the majority of Americans surveyed? Would you give up alcohol for a month to avoid hearing Alexa’s scary laugh? Would you choose to share your browser history if it meant keeping your medical history private? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Methodology

We asked 1,000 people from all over the country to choose between difficult privacy and security threats to find out which scenarios they’d prefer. Once we received the first round of results, we paired up answers and sent out questions for follow-up rounds. In some cases, we sent out extra questions to satisfy our curiosity, so not all matchups made it into the bracket displayed at the top of the article.

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