Poll Reveals Amercians are Concerned about Online Privacy, but Grossly Misinformed

On the heels of the recent Pew study concerning cloud computing and privacy, Consume Reports has released a poll revealing that most Americans are very concerned about what is being done with their personal information online. Some highlights:

  • 72% are concerned that their online behaviors were being tracked and profiled by companies
  • 53% are uncomfortable with internet companies using their email content or browsing history to send relevant ads
  • 54% are uncomfortable with third parties collecting information about their online behavior
  • 93% of Americans think internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information
  • 72% want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior

Further, the poll reveals that some Americans are taking steps to resist widespread online surveillance:

  • 35% use alternate email addresses to avoid providing real information
  • 26% have used software that hides their identity [perhaps like Tor]
  • 25% have provided fake information to access a website

Meanwhile, the poll revealed large misconceptions about the actions of online companies and the (lack of) protections afforded consumers

  • 61% are confident that what they do online is private and not shared without their permission
  • 57% incorrectly believe that companies must identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data and whether they intend to share it with other organizations
  • 48% incorrectly believe their consent is required for companies to use the personal information they collect from online activities
  • 43% incorrectly believe a court order is required to monitor activities online

We have a lot of work to do.

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