Experts believe that privacy protection will likely become a luxury good.
After the June 2013 leaks by government contractor Edward Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans’ online and phone communications, Pew Research Center began an in-depth exploration of people’s views and behaviors related to privacy. Our report earlier this year about how Americans think about privacy and sharing personal information was a capstone of this two-and-a-half-year effort that examined how people viewed not only government surveillance but also commercial transactions involving the capture of personal information.
Here are some of the important findings that emerged from this work:
#3 Americans express a consistent lack of confidence about the security of everyday communication channels and the organizations that control them – particularly when it comes to the use of online tools. And they exhibited a deep lack of faith in organizations of all kinds, public or private, in protecting the personal information they collect. Only tiny minorities say they are “very confident” that the records maintained by these organizations will remain private and secure.
#6 Fully 91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Half of internet users said they worry about the amount of information available about them online, and most said they knew about key pieces of their personal information that could be found on the internet. Only 9% say they feel they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them and how it is used. Indeed, experts we canvassed about the future of privacy argued that privacy was no longer a “condition” of American life. Rather, they asserted that it was becoming a commodity to be purchased.
#9 A majority of the U.S. public believes changes in law could make a difference in protecting privacy – especially when it comes to policies on retention of their data. In the midst of all this uncertainty and angst about privacy, Americans are generally in favor of additional legal protections against abuses of their data. Some 68% of internet users believe current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy online; and 64% believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers. Most expect at least some limits on retention policies by data collections.