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Americans View Privacy as Important, Support Greater Limits on Surveillance

But Pew researchers find few are taking extra steps to protect their privacy.

By University Alliance on August 14, 2015
Few Americans Believe Personal Data is Secure

Despite valuing their privacy, Americans believe they are being watched while in public, and very few feel they have control over the information that is collected about them, new surveys have found.

Findings from the Pew Research Center show that most U.S. adults believe it’s important to be able to maintain privacy and confidentiality while in their homes and at work.

Nearly all respondents said that controlling who can get information about them is important, with nearly three-quarters saying it is “very important.” Likewise, nine in 10 said that controlling what information is collected about them is important.

The findings come at a time when revelations about government surveillance programs and security breaches at retailers and other institutions have troubled many Americans, prompting calls for tougher restrictions.

The Pew Research surveys explore these issues as they relate to tracking and profiling people in commercial arenas. They build upon earlier Pew Research reports that showed Americans are distrustful of data collection and monitoring.

Overall, Americans have strong views on privacy in their everyday lives and continue to support stronger limits on government surveillance programs, Pew reported in May 2015. They also believe certain online activities should remain anonymous.

The vast majority of adults surveyed (88%) said they don’t want to be watched or listened to without their approval, while 85% said it was important not to be disturbed at home.

Survey respondents felt less strongly about being able to “go around in public without always being identified.” Just one-third rated that level of anonymity as “very important,” with 29% calling it “somewhat important.”

Americans also have little confidence that their data will remain private and secure, according to Pew’s researchers. Just 6% of survey respondents said they are “very confident” that government agencies and landline telephone companies can keep their records secure, and 25% said they are “somewhat confident.”

Credit card companies didn’t fare much better. Only 9% of people said they are “very confident” that their records will remain secure; 29% said they are “somewhat confident.”

Pew researchers found few Americans have taken extra measures to protect their privacy, such as using proxy servers or encrypting their communications via email, phone or text.

Category: 2015 Headlines