The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project maintains a useful and wildly popular set of fact sheets listing the basic demographics of who is online, owns a mobile device, and uses social media in the U.S. The original idea came from E-patient Dave who taught us: When it comes to disseminating research, give people what they need, not what you want to create.
Pew Research’s recent exploration of Americans’ digital data concerns is so essential to the public conversation, yet so scattered across multiple reports, I decided to create and share a new fact sheet. Note: I did not conduct these surveys. I’m a fan and consumer, like you. Enjoy!
81% of U.S. adults think the potential risks of data collection by companies about them outweigh the benefits. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
79% of U.S. adults say they are very or somewhat concerned about how companies are using the data they collect about them. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
72% of U.S. adults say they personally benefit very little or not at all from company data collection about them. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
79% of U.S. adults say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility when they misuse or compromise data. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
75% of U.S. adults say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will be held accountable by government if they misuse data. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
69% of U.S. adults say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will use customers’ data in ways that people would feel comfortable with. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
59% of U.S. adults say they understand very little or nothing about what companies do with the data they collect. Only 6% of adults say they understand a great deal what companies do with the data collected. (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
48% of U.S. adults correctly answered a question about privacy policies (that they are contracts between websites and users regarding how their data will be used); 25% answered incorrectly; 27% answered “not sure.” (Pew Research, June 2019 survey).
45% of U.S. adults say it is unacceptable for social media companies to monitor users’ posts for signs of depression so they can identify people who are at risk of self-harm and connect them to counseling services. By comparison, 27% say this would be acceptable (and 27% answered “don’t know”). (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
35% of U.S. adults say it is unacceptable for fitness tracking app makers to share user data with medical researchers to better understand the link between exercise and heart disease. By comparison, 41% say this would be acceptable (and 22% answered “don’t know”). (Pew Research, June 2019 survey)
Percentage of U.S. adults who say that ALL Americans should have the right to have the following data about themselves be permanently deleted by the people or organizations who have that information:
- 36% – data collected by law enforcement, such as criminal records or mugshots
- 69% – medical data collected by a health provider
- 79% – financial data collected by their tax preparer
- 87% – potentially embarrassing photos or videos
A national survey conducted in 2020 and published in JAMA confirmed the Pew Research Center’s findings and expanded the scope of the analysis related to health data: “[C]onsumers generally have views about privacy that shift only modestly based on context. Just more than half of respondents (55%) had preferences to share or not share their information that were largely independent of context: 10% were universally opposed to all sharing, 33% were opposed to most sharing, and 13% were in favor of most sharing. The remainder (45%) revealed preferences more responsive to the context of information reuse.”
- Americans and Digital Knowledge (Pew Research Center report released in October 2019; survey conducted in June 2019)
- Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information (Pew Research report released in November 2019; survey conducted in June 2019)
- Most Americans support right to have some personal info removed from online searches (Pew Research article published in January 2020; survey conducted in June 2019)
- How Americans see digital privacy issues amid the COVID-19 outbreak (Pew Research article published in May 2020)
- Privacy, Security, and Digital Inequality (Data & Society report published in September 2017; survey conducted in November-December 2015)
- Consumer Willingness to Share Personal Digital Information for Health-Related Uses. (JAMA Network Open published in January 2022; survey conducted in July 2020)
Image: “Secret agent” by Jon on Flickr.