Apr 1, 2015 · 1 minute

A new survey has confirmed what some have already suspected: although people often worry about their data disappearing, many do nothing to help preserve it.

Avast asked 288,000 people from the United States, Russia, India, Mexico, and other countries about how they view the data on their phones.

It found that 64 percent of respondents worry more about losing images, contacts, and other data stored on a smartphone than losing the phone itself.

Yet many people -- 37 percent of respondents -- said they don't back up their data. (It's not clear if this means that data isn't automatically backed up, either, or if the respondents simply aren't choosing to back up the data themselves.)

Of those who do back up their data, many said they prefer to back it up to a computer instead of to cloud services, with 46 percent of those respondents saying they don't want their data to be in the cloud due to privacy concerns.

Avast's results fit in with other studies about how people view their personal data and how they create, manage, and control that data in their everyday lives.

Consider a Pew report which showed that almost one-third of Americans have changed their habits since Edward Snowden revealed various National Security Agency surveillance programs in 2013. As I wrote when the report was released:

Pew’s study suggests that almost 90 percent of American adults have heard something about government surveillance programs. Of those, 34 percent are said to have taken preventative measures such as changing social media privacy settings, uninstalling applications, or speaking in person instead of through the Web.


[T]the research group said in its report was that 52 percent of Americans take issue with the programs, while 46 percent aren’t as concerned with the surveillance. (The other two percent apparently didn’t fit either of those categories.) This shows that even though a small majority of Americans were concerned about the programs, comparatively few of them actually did something to keep information about their online activities out of the government's clutches.

There's a clear disconnect between what people believe and what they actually do, at least so far as their personal data is concerned. It doesn't matter if we're talking about preserving that data or keeping it private; consumers are willing to talk the talk, but both Avast and Pew have shown that they won't walk the walk.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]