About 20% of internet-using households had some form of a security breach within the last year, up one percentage point from 2015, a new census survey finds. The survey also finds that more U.S. households use a tablet than a desktop.

One in five U.S. households with at least one internet user said they experienced an online security breach, identity theft or a similar crime during the past year, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration survey, “November 2017 CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement.”

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, surveyed more than 123,000 consumers living in more than 52,000 households in 50 states and Washington, D.C. The survey is conducted as a supplement to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. More than 43,000 of the households had at least one internet user and were asked additional privacy and security questions.

The 20% of households that have experienced a security breach is up from 19% in the 2015 survey. This group is more concerned about privacy risks and avoided certain online activities because of security concerns, compared with households that had not experienced a security breach, according to the survey.

For example, 70% of breached households in 2017 said they were concerned about identify theft, compared with 54% of non-breached homes.


What’s more, of households that reported a security breach, 33% said that at some point over the past year, they declined to conduct a financial transaction on the internet—such as checking out on an e-commerce site—because of a security concern, compared with only 22% of non-breached households.

Similarly, 14% of breached households declined to conduct an online search at some point last year, compared with 7% of non-breached households.

When the data is analyzed overall, with breached and non-breached households together, privacy concerns have decreased or remained the same in recent years:

  • 57% of households had concerns about identity theft in 2017, compared with 63% in 2015
  • 45% had concerns about credit card or banking fraud, the same as the previous survey.
  • 22% had concerns about data collection by online service providers, down from 23%
  • 16% had concerns about data collection by the government, down from 18%

The survey also analyzed internet usage overall for U.S. households.


For devices, the survey revealed increases in use for smartphones, tablets, smart TVs/internet-connected TVs and wearable devices (such as a fitness band or smartwatch), while desktop use declined and laptop use remained consistent. In fact, tablet use surpassed desktop use for the first time. Here is the breakdown:

  • 64% of U.S. consumers ages 3 and up used a smartphone in 2017, compared with 53% in 2015
  • 46% used a laptop, the same as 2015
  • 34% used a smart TV/connected TV, up from 29%
  • 32% used a tablet, up from 27%
  • 30% used desktop, down from 34%
  • 8% used a wearable device, up from 1%

The survey also found:

  • 78% of U.S. consumers ages 3 and up had used the internet as of November 2017, up from 75% in July 2015
  • 62% of U.S. consumers used at least two internet-connected devices
  • Internet use increased to 62%, up from 57% in 2015 for households with family income less than $25,000 per year
  • 86% of U.S. households in the highest income bracket, $100,000 and up, used the internet, the same as in 2015
  • Seniors increased their internet usage to 63% of consumers in 2017, up from 56% in 2015
  • More households, at 88.9 million, had mobile data plans than wired broadband service, at 85.3 million households