If a new Pew Research study is any indication, Americans hold abysmal opinions about the level of privacy they can expect with their online personal information.
In the “Public Perception of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era” survey, Pew found that 91 percent of adults agreed or strongly agreed that consumers have lost control over how companies collect and use their personal information, and 64 percent believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers.
Although consumers seem to worry about their privacy and personal information safekeeping, 55 percent of respondents backpedaled to say they agreed or strongly agreed that they'd be willing to share information about themselves with a company to use online services for free. On the other hand, 43 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with that statement. Social media users and users who accessed the internet on a mobile device were particularly willing to provide personal information for free services.
The study also touched on the ideas of “privacy” and “security,” the definitions of which were often confused. People had a difficult time deciphering between the two, and in multiple cases, the two ideas were seen as the same. However, some had more extensive thoughts on the differentiation between the two. One respondent said, “Security to me means a firewall, a secure site and a good filter on your computer. Privacy is more like photos and personal info.”
Privacy was often associated with the words “personal” or “secret.”
The study also confirmed that consumers will alter their posts and online aliases depending on where they're posting content. For instance, 59 percent of adults have posted comments, questions, or other information online using a user name or screen name associated with them, whereas people with some college experience or an annual household income of $50,000 and up are more likely to post anonymously than someone with a lower level of education or income.
Ultimately, with a large chunk of Edward Snowden's leaks out in the public dialogue, 70 percent of respondents felt at least somewhat concerned about the government accessing some information they share on social networking sites without their knowledge. Consumers felt safest making a landline phone call, as opposed to using social media, chatting online or sending an email or text.