Pew Research Center issues report on privacy, security and surveillance

May 22, 2015 |

On 20 May the Pew Research Centre released its report on American’s attitude about Privacy, Security and Surveillance.

Interestingly the report shows the public to be more sophisticated on the issue of and need for privacy, in particular their personal information.  The survey results show:

 

  • 93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is important; 74% feel this is “very important,” while 19% say it is “somewhat important.”
  • 90% say that controlling what information is collected about them is important—65% think it is “very important” and 25% say it is “somewhat important.”

 

Regarding surveillance the respondents had strong views on being surveilled:

  •  with 88% saying it is important that they not have someone watch or listen to them without their permission(67% feel this is “very important” and 20% say it is “somewhat important”)
  • while 63% felt it is important to be able to “go around in public without always being identified.” Only 34% believe being able to go unnoticed in public is “very important” and 29% say it is “somewhat important” to them. 

There was a significant level of concern about organisations keeping personal information private and secure with:

  • 6% of adults being “very confident” that government agencies can keep their records private and secure, with 25% say they are “somewhat confident.
  •  6% saying they are “very confident” that landline telephone companies will be able to protect their data with  25% being “somewhat confident” that the records of their activities will remain private and secure.
  • 9% being  “very confident” and 29%  being “somewhat confident” their data held by credit card companies will stay private and secure.
  • 76% of adults are “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that records of their activity maintained by the online advertisers who place ads on the websites they visit will remain private and secure
  • 69% of adults are not confident that records of their activity maintained by the social media sites they use will remain private and secure
  • 66% of adults are not confident that records of their activity maintained by search engine providers will remain private and secure
  • 66% say they are not confident that records of their activity collected by the online video sites they use will remain private and secure

Tied in with that finding are the respondents’ view that:

  • 50%  think that online advertisers who place ads on the websites they visit should not save records or archives of their activity for any length of time.
  • 44% feel that the online video sites they use shouldn’t retain records of their activity.
  • 40% think that their search engine provider shouldn’t retain information about their activity.
  • 40% think that social media sites they use shouldn’t save data about their activity.

There is a bare majority who believe that they have little or no control over how much information is collected about them and used with:

  • 9% say they feel they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them and how it is used,
  •  38% saying they have “some control.”
  • 37% feeling they have “not much control,”; and
  • 13% feel they personally have “no control at all” .

Some respondents do engage in privacy enhancing measures with

  • 59 % clearing cookies or browser history .
  • 57% refusing to provide information about themselves that wasn’t relevant to a transaction.
  • 25% using a temporary username or email address.
  • 24% giving inaccurate or misleading information about themselves.
  • 23% deciding not to use a website because they asked for a real name.
  • 10% encrypting phone calls, text messages or email
  • 9%  have used a service that allows them to browse the Web anonymously, such as a proxy server, Tor software, or a virtual personal network
  • 55% said that people should have the ability to use the internet completely anonymously for certain kinds of online activities.

Given the recent very muted debate about data retention it is interesting to see the American public are concerned about data the government collects stating:

  • 65% say there are not adequate limits on what telephone and internet data the government can collect as part of anti-terrorism efforts,  
  • 31% believe that there are adequate limits on the kinds of data gathered for these programs.
  • 74% of those who have heard “a lot” about the programs say that there are not adequate limits, compared with 62% who have heard only “a little” about the monitoring programs.

These results show there is a universality in a desire for privacy and some control and regulation on how personal information is obtained, used, stored and for how long it is retained.  Unfortunately the laws in Australia and the United States do not come close to meeting those concerns

 

 

One Response to “Pew Research Center issues report on privacy, security and surveillance”

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