Pew Survey: America Worries About Privacy (But Won’t Do Anything About It)

U.S. adults are mostly fearful about their online privacy. And it’s getting worse.

That’s the conclusion of Pew Research in a study of attitudes to ad tracking and data collection by business and government. But do people read the privacy policies? (Have a guess.)

A silver lining might be that we’re more ready to reward businesses that take this seriously—and open to politicians regulating the problem. In today’s SB Blogwatch, the glass is half full.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: ’53 retrowave.


Fear Leads To Change?

What’s the craic? Mark Sullivan reports—“Americans finally understand Big Tech’s Faustian bargain”:

 America is no longer buying the internet advertising industry’s argument that personal data tracking helps us by showing … relevant ads. That’s perhaps the biggest lesson from … a broad new Pew Research study.

[It] found that 6 in 10 people believe they can’t go through a day without having their personal data captured. … 72% of Americans believe that “all, almost all or most of” what they do online … is being tracked.

81% feel that privacy risks of the systematic collection of their personal data … outweigh the potential benefits. … 81% say they have no control of what advertisers and ad tech companies collect.

And yet … while consumers feel they are being harmed more than helped by the data harvesting of Big Tech, they are unwilling or unable to stop using those services.

Weirdly, David Cohen draws a very different conclusion—“Americans Realize Big Brother Is Watching … But Don’t Know Why”:

 While 97% of Americans said they are asked to approve privacy policies every so often, just 9% said they always read those policies … while 36% never do. … 63% of Americans have little or no understanding of the laws and regulations that cover their privacy.

Trust was sorely lacking, with 79% of respondents saying they were … not confident … companies would admit mistakes and take responsibility in the event of misused or compromised personal information, and 69% saying they were not confident that companies would use their personal information in ways they were comfortable with. … 70% of respondents believe their personal data is less secure than it was five years ago.

Pew who? Brooke Auxier, Lee Rainie, Monica Anderson, Andrew Perrin, Madhu Kumar and Erica Turner tag-team to describe their respondents as, “Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control”:

 Americans’ concerns about digital privacy extend to those who collect, store and use their personal information. … Data-driven products and services are often marketed with the potential to save users time and money or even lead to better health and well-being. Still, large shares of U.S. adults are not convinced they benefit.

These findings point to an overall wariness about the state of privacy. … 57% say they follow privacy news.

48% say they feel as if they have no control over who can access the search terms they use, and 41% say the same about the websites they visit. By comparison, [28%] feel as if they do not have control over who can access their physical location.

Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to say they believe the government is tracking all or most of what they do online [and] offline. … Black adults are far more likely … to say they are at least a little concerned about the information that their friends or family, … employer … or law enforcement … know about them.

These findings come from a survey of 4,272 U.S. adults conducted on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel … a nationally representative panel … between June 3-17, 2019. … The margin of sampling error … is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

Depressing stats are depressing. Cory Doctorow says the area is “Ripe for regulation”:

 80% believe that advertisers and social media sites are collecting worrisome data. 79% think the companies lie about breaches. … 80% believe that nothing they do will make a difference.

This may seem like bad news, but there’s a silver lining. For decades, privacy activists have struggled to convince people to care about online surveillance — thanks to inaction, people can’t help but care, because they are being harmed in ways large and small on the regular.

It’s the moment when an activist’s job changes from convincing people that there’s a problem to convincing them that it’s not too late to do something. … It means that there is a public appetite for change.

Lawmakers and regulators who propose meaningful privacy rules will find support. … Businesses that offer privacy-friendly tools will find markets.

And TheDevil_LLC puts it pithier:

 And in other news, it turns out that the “Majority of Americans” have a good understanding of the situation.

Our government allows corporations to legally carry out this data collection and surveillance with impunity instead of enacting effective privacy laws.

So Phil Booth—@EinsteinsAttic—violently agrees:

 Who’da thunk it? People do give a ****, after all. Maybe it’s time they were given more actual choice & control?

But ron_ivi asks this fascinating question:

 Since many privacy laws depend on a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, does this mean if people no longer expect privacy they lose it?

Interesting. gelfin expands on that thought:

 Case law on the fourth amendment largely centers on the idea of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

A conversation on a busy street corner can be surveilled without a warrant because no reasonable person would expect they couldn’t be overheard. But as reasonable people come to understand, correctly, that all of their communications are under surveillance by multiple entities at all times, the “reasonable expectation” standard renders the government’s fourth amendment obligations almost entirely null.

I read a legal paper years ago arguing, for this reason, that the interpretation of the amendment should pivot to focus particularly on “the right of the people to be secure,” dropping the individual expectation of privacy standard. … A people who are subjected to constant surveillance, even if they reasonably expect it, can never be secure in any meaningful sense.

Meanwhile, gurps_npc fights back:

 [It’s] totally possible to not be tracked. … All you need to do is:
1) Own a 20 year old cell phone
2) Do not own a computer
3) Use a bicycle.

And Finally:

What happens when you dub retrowave over a humdrum 1953 MGM musical?

Previously in And Finally


You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Image source: Bryan Rosengrant (cc:by-nd)

Richi Jennings

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Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and CIO.com. Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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