For example: In the commercial context, consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services.
When it comes to their own role in managing the personal information they feel is sensitive, most adults express a desire to take additional steps to protect their data online: When asked if they feel as though their own efforts to protect the privacy of their personal information online are sufficient, 61% say they feel they “would like to do more,” while 37% say they “already do enough.” When they want to have anonymity online, few feel that is easy to achieve.
Just 24% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “It is easy for me to be anonymous when I am online.” Some people are more anxious than others to keep track of their online reputation.
Adults under the age of 50 are far more likely to be “self-searchers” than those ages 50 and older, and adults with higher levels of household income and education stand out as especially likely to check up on their own digital footprints.
Privacy evokes a constellation of concepts for Americans—some of them tied to traditional notions of civil liberties and some of them driven by concerns about the surveillance of digital communications and the coming era of “big data.” While Americans’ associations with the topic of privacy are varied, the majority of adults in a new survey by the Pew Research Center feel that their privacy is being challenged along such core dimensions as the security of their personal information and their ability to retain confidentiality.
When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear the word “privacy,” there are patterns to their answers.
As the above word cloud illustrates, they give important weight to the idea that privacy applies to personal material—their space, their “stuff,” their solitude, and, importantly, their “rights.” Beyond the frequency of individual words, when responses are grouped into themes, the largest block of answers ties to concepts of security, safety, and protection.For many others, notions of secrecy and keeping things “hidden” are top of mind when thinking about privacy.More than a year after contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents about widespread government surveillance by the NSA, the cascade of news stories about the revelations continue to register widely among the public.Some 43% of adults have heard “a lot” about “the government collecting information about telephone calls, emails, and other online communications as part of efforts to monitor terrorist activity,” and another 44% have heard “a little.” Just 5% of adults in our panel said they have heard “nothing at all” about these programs.Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information.That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.