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Consumer Opinions And Attitudes About Privacy

The Pew Research Internet Project released the results of a survey of American adults' views about privacy. First, privacy means different things to different people:

"... 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."

Former NSA contractor Ed Snowden began leakingd documents in June 2013 about the government ongoing surveillance programs. Pew Research found:

"... 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."

Survey respondents lack confidence that they have control over their personal information:

"91% of adults in the survey “agree” or “strongly agree” that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.

88% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that it would be very difficult to remove inaccurate information about them online.

80% of those who use social networking sites say they are concerned about third parties like advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share on these sites.

70% of social networking site users say that they are at least somewhat concerned about the government accessing some of the information they share on social networking sites without their knowledge"

Are government spy programs a concern? Should government do more to protect consumers. Here's are survey respondents answered:

"80% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that Americans should be concerned about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and internet communications. Just 18% “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with that notion.

64% believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers, compared with 34% who think the government should not get more involved.”

Historically, web sites have typically claim that the online data collection is necessary to serve up relevant advertisements and/or to provide free services. Here's what survey respondents said about that:

"61% of adults “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement: “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data.”

At the same time, 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.”

Pew Research found that most repondents felt the most unsecure on social networking websites, followed by chat and instant messaging services. Respondents felt the most secure on landline phones when they need to share private information. Most people want to protect their privacy online, but it feel it is impossible to be anonymous online.

People considered their Social Security Numbers the most sensitive personal data. The rank order of personal data elements from the most to least sensitive:

  1. Social Security Number
  2. State of their health and medications taken
  3. Content of phone conversations
  4. Content of e-mail messages
  5. Physical location over time (geo-location)
  6. Content of text messages
  7. Phone numbers called
  8. Birth date
  9. Relationship history
  10. Websites visited
  11. Keywords used at online search engines
  12. Religious views and religion practiced
  13. List of friends
  14. Political views and candidates supported
  15. Media liked
  16. Purchasing habits (products/services bought)

This list can be used to measure the intrusiveness of  social networking sites. For example, Facebook collects directly via member interactions items 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16.

The survey included 607 adults who GfK Knowledge Panel members. The survey was conducted online in english January 11 - 28, 2014.

What are your opinions of the survey results?


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