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Growing Concern Over Americans' Privacy Not Surprising

Hillary Jackson |
November 12, 2014 | 6:08 p.m. PST

Web Producer

(Photo by Ministerio Colombia/Creative Commons)
(Photo by Ministerio Colombia/Creative Commons)
Ninety-one percent of adults feel like they have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Internet Project. 

The study is a result of Edward Snowden’s revelations of hidden U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs and reports of massive online credit information. It is aimed to gain perspective of Americans’ thoughts regarding privacy, Pew researchers said.  

According to the study, 80 percent of Americans also are worried about the government’s survellience of phone and internet communication. 

Only a third agreed with the statement: “It is a good thing for society if people believe that someone is keeping an eye on the things they do online.”

Bottom line: Americans don’t feel like their information is safe and they don’t want to be watched even though they know that they are. But in a post-Snowden world, why are we clinging to the concept of privacy even though we doubt its existence in our society?

SEE ALSO: Google's New Privacy Settings: Is There Anything Private About Them?

Researchers noted nuances in particpants’ definitions of privacy:

“When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘privacy,’ there are patterns to their answers….Privacy applies to personal material—their space, their ‘stuff,’ their solitude, and, importantly, their ‘rights.’ Beyond the frequency of individual words, when responses are grouped into themes, the largest block of answers ties to concepts of security, safety, and protection. For many others, notions of secrecy and keeping things ‘hidden’ are top of mind when thinking about privacy.”

Privacy seems elusive. The study's statistics are staggering, but should we really be surprised by the results?

We willingly fork over our personal information in exchange for products or services that become assets to our life. It is impossible to check social media without being targeted by ads selected based upon personal information that we gave away when we signed up for the service.  Facebook targets ads to each user based on personal information like the user’s location, age, gender, relationships, education and interests included in his or her profile. 

According to Statistica, Facebook had 1.35 billion active users in the third quarter of 2014. In order to create a Facebook account, users at must submit a first and last name, email or phone number, birthday and gender. Once the profile is established, more information can be given so users can connect with friends and advertisers. 

At the minimum, Facebook has the name, email or phone number, birthday and gender of 1.35 billion people who willingly gave away their privacy rights. 

SEE ALSO: Why All the Hubbub About Facebook Privacy?

The Pew study also found 81 percent of participants feel “not very” or “not at all secure” using social media sites when they want to share private information with another trusted person or organization. Yet, social media remains one of the top forms of communicaton.

Privacy is something that we long for, but we aren't prepared to take the steps necessary to protect it at the most basic level. 



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