Pew Research Privacy Studies

SpyVsSpyPew Research recently took two separate looks at the issue of privacy. First, they conducted a survey to see how the general public in the US feels about on-line privacy. They also polled 2,511 “technology builders, researchers, managers, policymakers, marketers, analysts and those who have been insightful respondents in previous studies.”

Some of the more interesting results of the survey are as follows:

  • 91% of adults agreed that consumers have lost control of how personal information is gathered and used on the Internet.
  • 88% agree that it would be very difficult to remove inaccurate information about themselves online.
  • 80% who use social media are concerned that businesses are accessing what they share.
  • 64% thought the government should do more to monitor on-line advertisers.
  • 61% disagreed with the statement, “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data”.
  • But to show how mixed feelings are about online advertising, 55% agreed with the statement, “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free”. There must be people who agreed with this who also disagreed with the previous question.

There were also questions about government spying on Americans:

  • 95% were aware that the NSA is collecting telephone records and online records on everyone.
  • 80% were concerned that the government is monitoring phone calls and monitoring the Internet.
  • Only 36% agreed with the statement, “It is a good thing for society if people believe that someone is keeping an eye on the things they do online”.

People were asked which method of communications they felt most secure using. Following are the percentages of people that felt either somewhat secure or very secure: landlines – 67%; cellphones – 52%; email – 40%; text messages – 39%; IM or chat – 29%; and social media – 16%. These findings correlated well with knowledge of the NSA surveillance – the more somebody knew about the NSA the less secure they felt using communications.

Only 62% of people have ever used a search engine to look up their own name to see what is known about them on the Internet. 47% of people assume that people they meet will look them up. Only 6% of people have set an automatic alert to notify them when their name appears on the web.

People are cautious about posting controversial comments on the internet. 59% have posted using a screen name that people associate with them. 55% have posted using their real name, and 42% have posted anonymously.

24% say that their employer has rules or guidelines about how they are allowed to present themselves online. 11% say that their job requires them to promote themselves through social media or other online tools.

In the poll of the industry experts, only 55% believe that there will be a “secure, popularly accepted and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025”. The experts almost universally agree that we are living in a period of ubiquitous surveillance.

Many of the experts believe that it is not possible to create an effective privacy rights system. They believe that both government and industry have very little incentive to reverse the already invasive status quo and that they have much to gain from continued monitoring of information.

It’s obvious in looking at these results that people are aware of how ubiquitous surveillance is and that what they say on the Internet is seen by others. Most people are concerned about how the government or businesses view and use their information, and of the consequences of what they post with their employer. Of course, this still leaves me wondering how to explain drunk selfies!

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