We’re Feeling Insecure

The Pew folks are at it again. They just released a study called “Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era” and it’s a doozy. Let’s not bury the lede:

Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.

Big Brother indeed, although Orwell probably didn’t think about it in terms of corporations doing much of the surveillance.  The study makes clear that consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services. 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.” And we know they’re watching:

Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels—particularly when it comes to the use of online tools. Across six different methods of mediated communication, there is not one mode through which a majority of the American public feels “very secure” when sharing private information with another trusted person or organization.

Sad, isn’t it?  More importantly, there seems to be a growing sentiment among consumers to dial back the amount of information they’re making available.  I’ve written before about ad and cookie blocking.  How can the legitimate interests some businesses have for this information – to me that means to make the consumer’s experience better – be served while protecting the consumer’s privacy?  Clearly all of us engaged in data-gathering need to begin to act more responsibly or risk being cut off from the source.  As the report says:

At the same time that Americans express these broad sensitivities toward various kinds of information, they are actively engaged in negotiating the benefits and risks of sharing this data in their daily interactions with friends, family, co-workers, businesses and government.

This is a wake up call.  Are you answering?

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

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