According to Pew research majority of Americans believe their online and offline activities are being tracked and monitored by companies and the government with some regularity. It is such a common condition of modern life that roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults say they do not think it is possible to go through daily life without having data collected about them by companies or the government.
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 from this system of widespread data gathering. Some 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection. At the same time, a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%). Most also feel they have little or no control over how these entities use their personal information, according to a new survey of U.S. adults by Pew Research Center that explores how Americans feel about the state of privacy in the nation.
Americans’ concerns about digital privacy extend to those who collect, store and use their personal information. Additionally, majorities of the public are not confident that corporations are good stewards of the data they collect. For example, 79% of Americans say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility if they misuse or compromise personal information, and 69% report having this same lack of confidence that firms will use their personal information in ways they will be comfortable with.
Concern about how data is used: 79% of adults assert they are very or somewhat concerned about how companies are using the data they collect about them, while 64% say they have the same level of concern about government data collection.
Separately, Americans have mixed views about which groups concern them in getting access to their data: About four-in-ten are concerned a lot about the personal information social media sites (40%) or advertisers might know about them (39%). But only 9% of Americans worry a lot about the information family and friends might know and 19% have similar concerns about what their employers might know.
Still, the majority of Americans are not confident about the way companies will behave when it comes to using and protecting their personal data. Roughly seven-in-ten or more say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility when they misuse or compromise data (79%), will be held accountable by government if they misuse data (75%), or will use customers’ data in ways that people would feel comfortable with (69%).
Lack of understanding: 78% of U.S. adults say they understand very little or nothing about what the government does with the data it collects, and 59% say the same about the data companies collect. Only 6% of adults say they understand a great deal what companies do with the data collected, and a similar share (4%) say they know a great deal about what the government does with the data.
Some Americans also admit they struggle to understand the privacy laws that govern use of their data. Roughly six-in-ten Americans (63%) say they have very little or no understanding of the laws and regulations that are currently in place to protect their privacy. Only 3% of adults say they understand these laws a great deal, and 33% say they have some understanding.