Benjamin Fearnow


WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — An overwhelming majority of Americans feel a complete lack of control over the privacy of their personal information, with 91 percent of U.S. adults agreeing that consumers “have lost control” over how companies and the government collect and use their personal data.

A new study released by the Pew Research Center focused on Americans’ perception of privacy in the “Post-Snowden Era” in which “big data” surveillance has altered traditional U.S. views of civil liberties and personal privacy. U.S. adults expressed a “striking” lack of confidence in their level of control over how both corporations and the government collect and utilize their everyday communications.

Eighty percent of U.S. adults said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that Americans should be concerned about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and internet communications, with just 18 percent disagreeing with the concern. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers, with nearly one-third saying the government should not get more involved.

And 70 percent of social networking site users said they are concerned about the government accessing some of the information they share on social networking sites without their knowledge.

Lack of trust is pervasive among Americans, with 81 percent reporting they feel “not very” or “not at all secure” using social media sites when sharing private information with another trusted individual or organization. Only 36 percent agreed that “it is a good thing for society if people believe that someone is keeping an eye on the things that they do online.”

Most adults feel it is nearly impossible to maintain any level of anonymity online, with just 24 percent agreeing with the statement: “It is easy for me to be anonymous when I am online.”

Eighty-eight percent of Americans agreed it would be very difficult to remove any inaccurate information about them online.

More than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) said they feel “insecure” using chat or instant messages to share private information. And 58 percent said they feel “insecure” sending private info through text messages on their personal cell phone, with a similar percentage (57 percent) feeling insecure when sending emails.

Forty-six percent of Americans said they feel “not very” or “not at all secure” when sharing private information through calls on their own cell phone.

Americans are skeptical there are even any benefits to personal data sharing, but many are still willing to make “tradeoffs” when the sharing of their personal information gains them access to free services. Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults said they “appreciate that online services are more efficient” because of the increased access that companies have to their personal information.

Nearly one-half of Americans (47 percent) they generally assume that people they meet will search for information about them on the internet, while 50 percent do not believe they will be searched online.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project commissioned a representative online panel of 607 English-speaking U.S. adults to respond to four surveys over the course of one year. Twenty-six additional panelists participated in online focus groups for this study which picked from an original survey of more than 1,500 English-speaking panelists.

Benjamin Fearnow

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