Public Opinion on Privacy
- Pew Research: Future of Data Privacy Uncertain: The Pew Research Center's new survey on "The Future of Privacy" found that experts predict that the struggle over privacy protection will continue through the next decade, though experts are divided about the likely outcomes. Among the key threats identified in the Pew study are the Internet of Things, the monetization of personal information, and increasing government surveillance. EPIC president Marc Rotenberg, one of the experts consulted, predicted, "There will be many contentious battles over the control of identity and private life. The appropriation of personal facts for commercial value — an issue that emerged with Google's 'shared endorsements' and Facebook's 'sponsored stories' — are a small glimpse of what lies ahead. The key will be the defaults: either individuals will control their online persona or it will be controlled by others." In May 2015, EPIC will release an anthology on the future of privacy. The book, "Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions," will be published by The New Press. For more information, see EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy. (Dec. 18, 2014)
- Post-Snowden, Social Media Users Concerned About Access to Personal Data: According to the Pew Research Report "Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era," most users of social media are very concerned about businesses and government accessing their personal data. 80% of adults "agree" or "strongly agree" that Americans should be concerned about the government's monitoring of phone calls and internet communications. 64% believe there should be more regulation of advertisers. Almost all users rank their social security number as the most sensitive piece of personal data. EPIC has asked the House Committee on Homeland Security to suspend a DHS program that is monitoring social networks and media organizations. EPIC has recommended that the FTC to establish privacy protections for online advertising. EPIC has also urged the US Congress over many years to limit the use of the Social Security Number for commercial purposes. For more information, see EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy, EPIC: Facebook Privacy, EPIC: Social Media Monitoring, and EPIC: Social Security Numbers. (Nov. 13, 2014)
- Japan Adopts "Right to Be Forgotten": A Japanese court has ordered Google to delete about half of the search result for a man linked to a crime he didn't commit. Judge Nobuyuki Seki of the Tokyo District Court said that the search results "infringe personal rights," and had harmed the plaintiff. A recent poll also found that 61 percent of Americans favor the EU Court of Justice decision regarding the right to be forgotten. And Canada is now debating the establishment of a similar legal right. For more information, see EPIC: Right to Be Forgotten, EPIC: Public Opinions and Privacy, and EPIC: Expungement. (Oct. 14, 2014)
- Pew Survey: Users Online Self-Censor Discussion of Government Surveillance: According to the Pew Research Report "Social Media and the 'Spiral of Silence,'" most users of social media are afraid to talk about government surveillance on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. Users were more willing to share their views on government surveillance if they thought others shared the same view. Those who thought they held minority views were more likely to self-censor—an effect known as the "spiral of silence." In 2012, EPIC obtained FOIA documents revealing that the Department of Homeland Security monitored social media for political dissent. A subsequent Congressional hearing led the DHS to cancel the program. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS: Media Monitoring and EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy. (Sep. 9, 2014)
- Pew Internet Report Identifies Privacy Concerns, New Challenges: According to the Pew Research Report "Digital Life in 2025", experts predict the Internet will become 'like electricity' - less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people's lives for good and ill. Several respondents identified the loss of privacy, and the stratification of privacy rights, as a key concern. The Pew report, conducted with Elon University, asked experts to make predictions about the state of digital life in 2025. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg posed the question - "will the Internet of 2025 be a network of freedom and opportunity or the infrastructure of social control?" For more, see EPIC - Public Opinions on Privacy. (Mar. 12, 2014)
- Polls Show Little Support for Expanding Government Surveillance: Polls conducted by Fox News and the Washington Post following the bombing in Boston last week show little support for changes in the scope of government surveillance. According to Fox News, when asked "Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?" for the first time since before 9/11, more said they would not (45%) as compared with those who said they would (43%). A Washington Post poll indicated that the public was more concerned (48%) that the government would go too far to investigate terrorism than that it would not go far enough (41%). A Rassmusen Poll conducted of likely voters found that more than half of the respondents — 54 percent — said economic threats were a greater danger to the country than terrorism. According to 538, that is "almost unchanged from a Rasmussen survey conducted in late January, more than two months before the bombs were detonated in Boston near the marathon finish line." For more information, see EPIC, Public Opinion on Privacy. (Apr. 23, 2013)
- Survey Names Top 10 Most Trusted Companies for Privacy: The Ponemon Institute has released the 2012 version of a report listing the companies that consumers trust the most with respect to the handling of their personal data. Out of 217 organizations rated, American Express ranked as the most trusted. In general, consumers rated companies in the healthcare and banking industries higher than social media companies and charities. The report also found that “the importance of privacy has steadily trended upward over seven years.” The rankings were generated from a final sample of 6,704 respondents. For more information, see EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy. (Jan. 28, 2013)
- Pew Survey Finds Most Mobile Users Avoid Apps Due to Privacy Concerns: A survey by the Pew Research Center found that the majority of mobile phone users have uninstalled or avoided apps due to privacy concerns. According to the report, 54% of mobile users have decided to not install an app after discovering the amount of information it collect, and 30% of mobile users uninstalled an app after discovering that it was collecting personal information that they didn’t wish to share. Owners of Android and iPhone devices are also equally likely to delete (or avoid entirely) cell phone apps due to concerns over their personal information. Younger cellphone users were also twice as likely as older users to report that "someone has accessed phone in a way that felt like privacy invasion." This poll follows another survey by Pew that found that users were becoming more active in managing their social media accounts. For more information, see EPIC: Public Opinion on Privacy. (Sep. 5, 2012)
- Voters Wary of Individually-Tailored Political Ads: A report by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania found that 86 percent of voters did not want political campaigns to tailor advertisements based on their interests. This percentage is higher than the percentage of respondents who reject other tailored advertisements (61%) or tailored news (56%). Significantly, a majority of respondents also reported that they would be less likely to vote for candidates that targeted them with tailored ads. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Privacy and EPIC: Public Opinion and Privacy. (Jul. 24, 2012)
Public opinion polls consistently find strong support among Americans for privacy rights in law to protect their personal information from government and commercial entities.
Individuals Should Be in Control of Both Initial Collection of Data and Data Sharing
The public considers opt-in--the principle that a company should obtain an individual's affirmative consent before collecting or sharing data--as one of the most important privacy rights. A March 2000 BusinessWeek/Harris Poll shows that 86% of users want a web site to obtain opt-in consent before even collecting users' names, address, phone number, or financial information. The same poll shows that 88% of users support opt-in as the standard before a web site shares personal information with others. An August 2000 Pew Internet & American Life Project Poll showed that 86% of respondents supported opt-in privacy policies. Historically, polls show similar support for the right to affirmative opt-in consent. For instance, a 1991 Time-CNN Poll indicated that 93% of respondents believed that companies should gain permission from the data subject before selling personal information.
Individuals Want Accountability and Security
Individuals report that they want the ability to obtain redress for privacy violations. An August 2000 Pew Internet & American Life report showed that 94% of Internet users thought that privacy violators should be disciplined. A February 2002 Harris Poll found that 84% of respondents thought it was important that access to data within an entity be limited.
Individuals Want Comprehensive Legislation, Not Self-Regulation
In numerous polls listed below, Americans report the current self-regulatory framework is insufficient to protect privacy. A February 2002 Harris Poll showed that 63% of respondents thought current law inadequate to protect privacy. A June 2001 Gallup poll indicated that two-thirds of respondents favored new federal legislation to protect privacy online. A July 2001 Markle Foundation study concluded that 64% favored rules to protect consumers on the Internet, and 58% reported that self-regulation wasn't enough to ensure adequate accountability. A March 2000 BusinessWeek/Harris Poll found that 57% of respondents favored laws that would regulate how personal information is used. In that same poll, only 15% supported self-regulation.
Individuals Value Anonymity
A series of surveys conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability (GVU) Center repeatedly demonstrated strong support for Internet Anonymity. In the GVU surveys, individuals expressed "strong agreement" with the statement that anonymity on the Internet is valuable.
Individuals Object to Web Tracking, Especially When Personal Information is Linked to the Profile
Web tracking for the purposes of building profiles is opposed by most individuals. A March 2000 BusinessWeek/Harris Poll found that 89% of respondents were uncomfortable with web tracking schemes where data was combined with an individual's identity. The same poll found that 63% of respondents were uncomfortable with web tracking even where the clickstream data was not linked to personally-identifiable information. An August 2000 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 54% of Internet users objected to tracking. A July 2000 USA Weekend Poll showed that 65% of respondents thought that tracking computer use was an invasion of privacy.
Individuals Do Not Trust Companies to Administer Personal Data and Fear Both Private-Sector and Government Abuses of Privacy
An April 2001 study conducted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that 51% of respondents were "very concerned" and 30% were "somewhat concerned" that a company might violate their personal privacy. 50% were "very concerned" and 30% were "somewhat" concerned that government might violate their personal privacy. The same study showed that 52% of respondents reported that they had "very little" or "no confidence at all" that private companies use personal information exactly the way they said they would. A February 2002 Harris Poll found that a majority of consumers do not trust businesses to handle their personal information properly. An August 2002 First Amendment Center study found that 60% of respondents thought that the government possessed too much personal information about individuals.
Individuals Engage in Privacy Self-Defense
Since individuals realize that existing laws do not adequately protect their personal data, they often engage in privacy "self-defense." When polled on the issue, individuals regularly claim that they have withheld personal information, have given false information, or have requested that they be removed from marketing lists. In a February 2002 Harris Poll, 83% of respondents had asked a company to remove their name and address from mailing lists. An April 2001 study performed by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that 70% of respondents had refused to give information to a company because it was too personal and 62% had asked to have their name removed from marketing lists.
Individuals Are Unaware of Prevalent Tracking Methods, Business Practices
Many Internet users cannot identify the most basic tracking tool on the Internet: the cookie. In an August 2000 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 56% of Internet users could not identify a cookie. It remains unknown whether individuals can identify more sophisticated tracking tools, such as "web bugs" or "spyware."
A report released by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in June 2005 shows that consumers are largely unaware of how their personal information is used by businesses, and that they object to behavioral profiling, price discrimination, and the purchase of their personal information from database companies. The report, based on a survey of phone survey 1,500 Internet using adults, further found that the respondents believe incorrectly that "laws prevent online and offline stores from selling their personal information," and that "stores cannot charge them different prices based on what they know about them."
Users want notice of how their personal information is collected, used, and with whom it is shared. In a March 2000 BusinessWeek/Harris Poll, 75% of respondents indicated that privacy notices were either "absolutely essential" or "very important."
Civil Liberties Post September 11th, 2001
Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, polls showed that Americans were willing to accept more invasive police surveillance technologies such as facial recognition and greater collection of biometric identifiers. Additionally, many Americans reported greater trust in government, and that mere criticism of the government was inappropriate. As time passed, public support of these invasive technologies have waned. For instance, immediately after the attacks, a Harris Poll found that 68% of Americans supported a national ID system. A study conducted in November 2001 for the Washington Post found that only 44% of Americans supported national ID. A poll released in March 2002 by the Gartner Group found that 26% of Americans favored a national ID, and that 41% opposed the idea. Popular support for other surveillance technologies has declined as well.
- Americans Historically Trade Liberties for Security, Pollsters Say, Nando Times, May 19, 2002.
Alan Westin and Privacy "Fundamentalists"
Privacy researcher Alan Westin has "segmented" the American public into three categories: privacy fundamentalists, those who possess very high privacy concern; privacy pragmatists, individuals who are willing to trade privacy for some convenience; and the privacy unconcerned, those with low to no concern about consumer privacy issues.
It's important to consider the flaws in Westin's segmentation. Westin has chosen pejorative terms to describe those who care a great deal about privacy--"fundamentalists." Privacy fundamentalists are those who are "passionate about what they see as business threats to their consumer privacy and favor active government regulation of business information practices." They believe that "consumers have lost all control over how personal information is collected and used by companies." Westin's use of a pejorative term to refer to people with these beliefs is unfair in part because these beliefs, while unqualified and strong, are not unreasonable. Under the current interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, individuals do not have general privacy rights in information held by companies. Many companies act as though they own individuals' personal information, and even reputable companies sell personal information to list brokers and telemarketers. Simply put, a general belief that consumers have lost control of information collection and use is not an unreasonable belief. It could be viewed as an informed belief. As Professor Oscar Gandy explains in The Role of Theory in the Policy Process:
When I examined some of the data that were gathered by Professor Westin and the Harris organization for an Equifax report in 1990, I discovered that the extent to which people had read or heard about "the potential use or misuse of computerized information about consumers" was a powerful explanatory factor. The more they had heard or read, the more they were concerned about threats to their privacy, the more concerned they were about the sale of personal information by the list industry. And consistent with a view that sees mediated experience as a source of social opinion, the more you heard or read, the less you trusted organizations that collected and used information about consumers.
Westin has chosen to label another segment with a term that has positive value--"pragmatists." Westin further paints "pragmatists" in a positive light by describing them as a "middle group with balanced privacy attitudes." The message is simple: those who care about privacy are unreasonable, and public policy should be designed for the middle group.
Westin is engaging in a subtle statistical trick by labeling a category of individuals as "fundamentalists." If this group of people is defined as being too extreme, it may provide a pretense for excluding the group from public policy considerations entirely. Fundamentalists could be labeled as statistical "outliers" that shouldn't even be considered by policymakers. And despite the growth of the "fundamentalist" category, in Westin's testimony before Congress, he has advocated that public policy be formulated for the "pragmatist" category: "About 125 million American adults fall into the moderate--Privacy Pragmatist--category. How to merit and secure the trust of this group should be the focus of business and lawmakers alike."
Westin's most recent poll calls into question whether there is a practical difference between those with high, middle, or low privacy concern because all three groups take special measures to protect their privacy. A June 2004 poll shows that both privacy fundamentalists and pragmatists engage in a high level of privacy activism. In that poll, Americans were asked whether they had engaged in one of seven actions to protect their privacy. Three-quarters of privacy fundamentalists had taken at least four of the seven actions, and 65% of "pragmatists" had taken at least four of the seven actions. Even those who were labeled "unconcerned" had a high level of taking action to protect privacy--46% had taken at least four of the seven steps to protect privacy.
There are other general concerns about Westin's research that should be considered. Westin tends to segment survey answers so that they are not mutually exclusive. The resulting ambiguities can then be used to benefit certain interests. For instance, a 1990 Alan Westin study funded by Equifax concluded that:
A majority of the public (55%) favors protecting consumer privacy by using the present system (31%) or setting up a nonregulatory privacy board (24%). A strong minority (41%) believe a regulatory privacy commission is needed.
In this question used to influence policymaking, Westin concludes that a majority of the public favors using "the present system" to address privacy. However, one could make an opposite conclusion that perhaps is less favorable to Equifax's interests: the majority of the public favors the creation of some type of government entity for privacy protection, while only 31% favor self-regulation.
The FCC criticized a Westin survey performed for Pacific Telesis, which involved marketing use of "Customer Proprietary Network Information," detailed telephone use data that indicates who individuals have called. Westin's study argued that the public supported marketing use of this personal information. The FCC strongly disagreed, noting that:
We are persuaded, however, that the Westin study may not accurately reflect customer attitudes, and fails to demonstrate that customers expect or desire carriers to use CPNI to market all the categories of services available, regardless of the boundaries of the existing service relationship. First, the Westin study does not identify the kind of telephone information at issue. As Cox points out, the survey questions ask broadly whether it is acceptable for a customer's local telephone company to look over "customer records" to determine which customers would benefit from hearing about new services, without explaining the specific types of information that would be accessed. Much CPNI, however, consists of highly personal information, particularly relating to call destination, including the numbers subscribers call and from which they receive calls, as well as when and how frequently subscribers make their calls. This data can be translated into subscriber profiles containing information about the identities and whereabouts of subscribers' friends and relatives; which businesses subscribers patronize; when subscribers are likely to be home and/or awake; product and service preferences; how frequently and cost-effectively subscribers use their telecommunications services; and subscribers' social, medical, business, client, sales, organizational, and political telephone contacts.
Insofar as the Westin study failed to reveal to the respondents the specific uses of CPNI, we give little weight to the purported results as reflecting customer privacy expectations. In addition, the wording and order of the questions in the survey may have predisposed respondents to thinking that the information available would be nonsensitive...
In EPIC's research, we have found that Westin tends to not ask, or at least not publish, clear questions that deal with critical privacy issues. For instance, we have never found evidence that Westin has published results on default rules for opt-out versus opt-in privacy, i.e. "Do you favor a system where a company can use your information by default, or do you favor one where your permission must be obtained first?"
Serious questions have been raised about the involvement of business funding in Westin's research. Westin's surveys are published by Privacy & American Business, which is a project of the Center for Social & Legal Research. Westin founded the Center for Social & Legal Research with Robert R. Belair, partner in the law firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair. Belair is a registered lobbyist for a number of companies that would be affected by privacy legislation, including ChoicePoint, credit reporting agency Equifax, the National Consortium for Justice Information & Statistics, the Coalition to Preserve Access to the White Pages (an "Unincorporated association of companies using White Pages information for a variety of products and services"), and the Coalition on Motor Vehicle Privacy (seeking "Use of Department of Motor Vehicle records for legitimate commercial purpose"). Publicly-available filings from the Center for Social & Legal Research from 2000 and 2001 indicate that major corporations with strong interests in preventing the progress of privacy legislation are supporting Westin's organization. The supporters include major banks, airlines, credit reporting agencies, and credit card companies.
A June 2001 Wall Street Journal article discussed the relationship between big companies and Westin research in detail, noting that he is "on the payrolls of many of the large financial services, technology and marketing companies that have resisted new privacy rules and legislation, including GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Equifax Inc. and First Data Corp. In addition to being consulting clients, Merck & Co., Visa International's Visa USA unit, DoubleClick Inc. and Verizon Communications are among the contributors to his nonprofit research group, the Center for Social and Legal Research."
Finally, there are strong correlations between the conclusions of Mr. Westin's studies and the interests of the companies sponsoring them. For instance, in an April 2002 study, Mr. Westin concluded that "A majority of employees also feel that their employers should be strengthening ID procedures for entering premises and accessing computer systems, and doing more detailed background checks on job applicants. Thirty-five percent felt that their employer should do more detailed background checks on current employees." That study was sponsored by background-check company ChoicePoint. A February 2002 Westin study found that "Retaining an independent auditing firm to verify that a website is doing what it promises in the company's privacy policies tops the list of actions businesses could take to instill confidence in consumers." That study was performed for American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Ernst & Young an industry association and company that provide privacy auditing. A November 1999 Westin study concluded that More than two-thirds of Internet users (68%) say they would provide personal information in order to receive tailored banner ads, if notice and opt out are provided." That study was funded by banner-advertising company DoubleClick, and the finding specifically supported the company's business model for managing privacy objections by providing an "opt-out" cookie.
U.S. Attitudes Toward the "Right to be Forgotten": IndustryView 2014. Software Advice, Sept. 5, 2014.
A software market analyst firm surveyed 500 U.S. adults to find out how they felt about the European Union's "right to be forgotten." In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union held that European citizens have a right to request that their personal data be delisted from search engines. This "right to be forgotten" stems from rights set forth in the EU's 1995 Data Protection Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. These include the right that personal data be accurate, adequate, relevant, not excessive in relation to the purpose in processing, kept up to date and for no longer than necessary.
61% of respondents want in the U.S. some form of the EU's right to be forgotten.
39% of respondents want the U.S. to adopt a European-style right to be forgotten, without restrictions.
47% were concerned that "irrelevant" search results can harm a person's reputation.
Pew Internet and American Life Project: Cloud Computing Raises Privacy Concerns. Pew, Sept. 12, 2008.
A Pew study indicates that "cloud computing" applications, such as web-based email and other web apps, are raising new privacy concerns.
69% of online Americans use webmail services, store data online, or use software programs such as word processing applications whose functionality is located on the web.
90% of respondents said that they "would be very concerned if the company at which their data were stored sold it to another party."
80% say "they would be very concerned if companies used their photos or other data in marketing campaigns."
68% of "users of at least one of the six cloud applications say they would be very concerned if companies who provided these services analyzed their information and then displayed ads to them based on their actions."
UPI-Zogby International Poll: Don't suspend privacy rights. UPI, April 25, 2007.
A UPI-Zogby International poll conducted on April 13-16, 2007 asked 5,932 U.S. residents whether the U.S. government should be allowed to suspend privacy laws to share terror information.
Slightly more than half (53%) said they are against the government having the ability to temporarily suspend federal privacy laws to enable agencies to better share counter-terrorism information, including the personal data of American citizens.
56% said they have an unfavorable opinion of the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport screening and security.
UPI-Zogby International Poll: Most Americans Worry About Identity Theft . Zogby, April 03, 2007.
The vast majority of respondents (91%) in a new Zogby Interactive survey said they are concerned that their identity might be stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.
Of 6,703 adults polled nationwide, half (50%) said they were very concerned about identity theft.
85% of respondents said privacy of their personal information is important to them as consumers.
UPI-Zogby Poll: Concern on Health Privacy. UPI, Feb. 21, 2007.
Over 50 percent of the 10,258 U.S.participants in a UPI-Zogby International poll expressed privacy concerns regarding their medical records and information.
African-Americans were the most likely to express concern as 34.5 percent of those participants gave an answer of "highly concerned."Some 30.9 percent of Hispanics in the poll also said they were "highly concerned" with the privacy of their medical records.
David Jefferson, Newsweek Poll: Americans Wary of NSA Surveillance. Newsweek Web, May 14, 2006.
A Newsweek poll conducted on May 11 and 12 asked 1007 adults over the telephone about their views on the NSA telephone call records database.
53% said that the program goes too far in invading people's privacy.
57% said that, in light of the revelations of the program and other events, the Bush administration has "gone too far in expanding presidential power."
USA Today / Gallup Poll, Government Phone Records Reaction, USA Today, May 2006.
In a telephone poll conducted on May 12-13, 2006, Gallup and USA Today asked 809 adults how they felt about revelations that the National Security Agency was amassing a database of millions of Americans' call records.
51% disapproved of the NSA call records program.
54% believed that the program violated the law, with 22% saying that it "definitely" violated the law, and 32% saing it "probably" was unlawful.
57% would feel their privacy had been violated if they found that their phone company had turned their records over to the government as part of the program.
62% favored immediate Congressional hearings investigating the program.
65% were concerned that, as a result of the program, innocent Americans would be misidentified as possible terrorist suspects, with 36% "very concerned" and 29% "somewhat concerned."
Dan Balz, Claudia Deane, Differing Views on Terrorism, Washington Post, January 11, 2006.
In a telephone poll conducted on January 5-8, 2006 by the Washington Post and ABC News,, 1,001 adults were asked, among other things, about their views on privacy rights and government surveillance measures.
64% believed that federal agencies were intruding on Americans' privacy rights in investigating terrorism.
46% believed that those intrusions were not justified.
44% were worried that the Bush administration would go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism.
32% placed a higher priority on the federal government respecting personal privacy than investigating possible terrorist threats, up 11% from 2003.
CNN, Poll Finds U.S. Split over Eavesdropping , January 10, 2006.
CNN, USA Today, and Gallup polled 1,003 adults for their opinions on the news that the National Security Agency has been conducting warrantless domestic surveillance, as well as opinions on the PATRIOT Act.
46% of those polled said that the warrantless surveillance was wrong.
75% said they had been following the issue very closely or somewhat closely.
38% polled said that the administration had gone too far in restricting civil liberties, up from the 28% result given in 2003, and the 11% result from 2002.
On the PATRIOT Act, 74% of the public supported changing the law, with 50% wanting minor changes and 24% in favor of major changes.
7% called for the law to be repealed.
Joseph Turow, Lauren Feldman, and Kimberly Meltzer, Open to Exploitation: American Shoppers Online and Offline (PDF), Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, June 1, 2005.
In a national poll of 1,500 Internet-using adults, Annenberg Public Policy Center asked respondents 17 questions, demonstrating wide ignorance of business practices and the use of personal information:
80% knew that companies have the ability to track Internet users on the web.
62% knew that a company can tell when someone has opened an email, even if the recipient did not respond.
47% believed falsely that online merchants give consumers the opportunity to see their own data.
49% believed falsely that banks send their customers e-mails asking them to verify their account (this is a common practice of "phishers," scammers who are attempting to break into individuals' bank accounts by fooling people into revealing their password).
50% believed falsely that online merchants allow consumers to erase their personal information from the company's coffers.
49% believed falsely that online merchants are required to disclose the names of their affiliates before transferring personal information to them.
52% believed falsely that magazines were barred by law from selling their subscription lists.
62% believed falsely that the law protects consumers for being charged different prices for the same item.
64% believed falsely that their supermarket is barred by law from selling customer data.
34% could correctly name one of the "big three" consumer reporting agencies (they are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union).
68% believed falsely that price comparison web sites such as Expedia or Orbitz must include the lowest airline prices.
72% believed falsely that charities are barred by law from selling personal information without permission.
73% believed falsely that banks are barred by law from sharing information with other companies and affiliates.
76% believed falsely that the Federal Trade Commission will correct errors in credit reports.
Harris Interactive Survey, May 2005 (Stephen Pounds, Americans increasing protections of privacy, personal information, Palm Beach Post, May 02, 2005).
A Harris Interactive national poll of 1,962 employed people performed for Office Depot found:
67% shred credit-card offers and their bills.
25% do not sign the back of their credit card so sales clerks will check their identification.
7% use only cash for purchases so there's no paper trail.
Privacy & American Business, June 10, 2004 (New National Survey on Consumer Privacy Attitudes to Be Released at Privacy & American Business Landmark Conference, Privacy and American Business Press Release, June 10, 2004).
A Harris Poll designed by Privacy & American Business and sponsored by Microsoft in June 2004 surveyed 2,136 adults online and found that:
35% of Americans had "very high privacy concern."
Two-thirds of Americans have taken various steps to protect their privacy, including deciding not to shop at a store or requesting that a company remove personal information from a database.
87% indicated that they had asked a company to remove their information from a marketing database.
60% decided not to patronize a store because of doubts about the company's privacy protections.
65% had declined to register at an e-commerce site because of privacy concerns.
15% had requested a company to reveal what personal information it held on consumers.
7% had filed a complaint regarding use of personal information.
Yankelovich Monitor, April 2004 (Consumer Resistance to Marketing Reaches All-Time High, Yankelovich Press Release, April 15, 2004).
A Yankelovich Monitor "recontact survey" of 601 respondents from February 20-29, 2004 found that:
53% of consumers polled reported that spam had made them likely to ignore all marketing and advertising.
36% of consumers polled reported that their shopping experiences are less enjoyable because of pressure to buy.
53% said that for the most part, marketing and advertising does not help them shop better.
59% feel that most marketing and advertising has very little relevance to them.
64% are concerned about practices and motives of marketers and advertisers.
61% feel that marketers and advertisers don't treat consumers with respect.
65% think there should be more limits and regulations on marketing and advertising.
69% are interested in products and services that would help them skip or block marketing.
33% would be willing to have a slightly lower standard of living to live in a society without marketing and advertising.
65% feel they are constantly bombarded with too much marketing and advertising.
61% feel that the amount of marketing and advertising is out of control.
60% have a much more negative opinion of marketing and advertising now than a few years ago.
Humphrey Taylor, Do Not Call Registry Is Working Well, More than half of all U.S. adults say they have signed up and they now receive far fewer telemarketing calls or none at all, The Harris Poll® #10, February 13, 2004.
An online poll conducted between January 19 and 28, 2004 among 3,378 adults found:
91% had heard of the Federal Trade Commission Telemarketing Do-Not-Call Registry.
57% had registered for the Do-Not-Call Registry.
25% reported receiving no telemarketing calls since registering.
53% reported receiving some telemarketing calls, but "far less than before" registering.
14% reported receiving some telemarketing calls, but a "little less than before" registering.
5% reported receiving as many telemarketing calls as before.
1% reported receiving more telemarketing calls.
Taylor wrote: "In my experience these results are remarkable. It is rare to find so many people benefit so quickly from a relatively inexpensive government program. This successful initiative now raises more questions about the desirability of "do not spam" legislation when, according to other surveys by Harris Interactive, the overwhelming majority of those online find spam very annoying."
The Great American Privacy Makeover, PC World, November 2003.
An online survey of 1,500 Internet users (500 AOL users, 500 PCWorld.com visitors, and 500 PC World Magazine subscribers) conducted between June 27 and July 7, 2003 found:
96% were highly concerned with invasive promotional tactics.
95% were highly concerned with websites' collection of personal information.
76% were highly concerned with websites' tracking habits.
RR Donnelley Survey Confirms that 70% of Consumers are Privacy Seekers, RR Donnelley Press Release, August 21, 2003
An online survey of over 10,000 individuals performed in 2003 by RR Donnelley's FinSight found that:
70% "think companies have too much personal information."
76.4% "feel that their privacy has been compromised if a company uses their personal information to sell them products."
Joseph Turow, Americans and Online Privacy: The System is Broken (PDF), Annenberg Public Policy Center, June 2003.
A telephone survey of 1,200 Internet-using adults by International Communications Research from January to March 2003 found:
94% agreed with the statement that "I should have a legal right to know everything that a web site knows about me."
85% thought that a law that gave individuals the right to control how websites use and share information would either be very or somewhat effective in protecting privacy.
59% of those polled did not know that websites collect information even if there is no registration requirement on the site.
40% expressed distrust that major advertisers would protect information online and not release it without notice and consent. 17% expressed distrust for the government.
2003 Harris Poll, March 19, 2003.
A telephone survey of 1,010 adults conducted by Harris in February 2003 found:
54% reported that they disagreed with the statement that: "Most businesses handle the personal information they collect about consumers in a proper and confidential way."
53% reported that they disagreed with the statement that: "Existing laws and organizational practices provide a reasonable level of protection for consumer privacy today."
79% reported that it is extremely important to be in control of who can get personal information.
76% reported that it is extremely important to be able to share confidential matters with trusted persons.
73% reported that it is extremely important to not have someone watching or listening to them without permission.
69% reported that it is extremely important to be able to control the collection of personal information.
62% reported that it is extremely important to not be disturbed at home.
60% reported that it is extremely important to have times to be completely alone.
Knowing it By Heart: Americans Consider the Constitution and its Meaning, Public Agenda and the National Constitution Center, September 17, 2002.
A telephone survey of 1,520 adults conducted by Public Agenda and the National Constitution Center in July 2002 found:
The largest group of respondents (36%) reported that more government power intruding on civil rights and freedoms is the biggest threat to the constitutional rights of Americans.
57% reported that banks and credit card companies are the biggest threat to personal privacy.
50% reported that an FBI agent who discovered a chat room discussion regarding a planned terrorist plot should get permission from a court to further investigate them.
21% reported that as a result of the war on terrorism, government has given too much power to monitor individuals' lives.
33% reported that new police power is threatening to violate the right to privacy.
State of the First Amendment 2002, First Amendment Center, August 2002.
A telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted by the Center for Survey Research & Analysis at the University of Connecticut for the First Amendment Center and American Journalism Review found:
81% reported that the right to privacy was "essential." This number has increased since 1997, when 78% reported that privacy was "essential."
60% reported that the government has too much access to personal information about individuals.
A Matter of Trust: What Users Want from Web Sites, Consumer WebWatch (a project of Consumers Union), April 16, 2002. (News coverage in: Study says U.S. consumers struggle with trustworthiness of online merchants, Mercury News, May 1, 2002.)
A telephone survey of 1,500 adult Internet users conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in December 2001 and January 2002 found:
29% reported that they trusted web sites that sell products or services.
59% reported that they wanted online advertising to be labeled so that it could be distinguished from news and other information.
93% reported that they wanted web sites to disclose how they protect credit card data.
80% reported that they wanted search engines to reveal when search results are weighted in favor of advertisers.
49% reported that they knew what a cookie is.
The Attack on America and Civil Liberties Trade-Offs Survey (PDF), Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), Michigan State University, April 23, 2002. A Press Release and Slide Show are also available.
A telephone poll funded by the National Science Foundation of 1,448 adults nationwide between November 2001 and January 2002 found that:
92% reported that they opposed government investigation of non-violent protesters.
82% reported that they opposed government use of racial profiling.
77% reported that they opposed warrantless searches of suspected terrorists.
66% reported that they opposed monitoring of telephone and e-mail conversations.
55% reported that they were generally unwilling to allow the government broader powers to combat terrorism if those powers would limit traditional constitutional protections.
Privacy, Costs, and Consumers Privacy, Consumers, and Costs: How the Lack of Privacy Costs Consumers and Why Business Studies of Privacy Costs are Biased and Incomplete, (PDF Version) Robert Gellman, March 26, 2002.
In this report, Gellman identifies many behaviors that individuals engage in to protect personal information. These include, subscribing to called ID services, purchasing unlisted phone number, and entering false information at web sites. Gellman argues that "the costs incurred by both business and individuals due to incomplete or insufficient privacy protections reach tens of billions of dollars every year."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Metro Atlanta Poll, March 2002. (Reported in What's for Sale? You. Atlantans Feel Victimized by Companies that Require Personal Data, Profit From It, Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 24, 2002, page 1A).
A poll of 2,400 adults in 15 metro Atlanta counties conducted by the Marketing Workshop found that:
65% reported that selling and buying personal information is an invasion of privacy.
43% reported that it is an invasion of privacy for stores to track purchasing habits.
Gartner Reports Strong Opposition to a U.S. National Identity Program, Gartner, March 12, 2002. (This poll is covered in Support for ID Cards Waning, Wired news, March 13, 2002.)
In a poll of 1,120 adults by Gartner, 26% of respondents reported that they were in favor of a national ID card, while 41% oppose the idea.
The poll demonstrated that respondents were suspicious of government agencies that would administer personal data, and that certain agencies, such as motor vehicle departments, were not trusted to run the system.
Americans maintain opposition to phone tapping, continue approval for random car searches, Zogby's Tracking Report, March 6, 2002.
In a survey of 1,011 registered American voters, Zogby's found that:
56% oppose allowing mail to be search at random.
74% oppose telephone conversations to be monitored.
51% favor allowing regular roadblocks to search vehicles.
E-Government Poll, Washington Post, February 27, 2002. (This poll appeared on the Washington Post Federal Page, and is not available online.)
A telephone poll of 961 adults conducted in November 2001 showed that Americans are sharply divided on the issue of national ID cards. 47% of respondents reported that national ID will improve interaction with government and business and 44% viewed it as "an invasion of people's civil liberties and privacy."
Privacy On and Off the Internet: What Consumers Want, Harris Interactive, February 19, 2002.
On behalf of Privacy & American Business, Ernst & Young, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Harris Interactive surveyed 1,529 adults and found the following:
Most consumers do not trust business to handle their personal information properly, and 84% responded that independent verification of company privacy policies should be a requirement.
Respondents reported concern for the following privacy risks: companies will sell data to others without permission (75%), transactions are not secure (70%), and crackers are able to steal personal data (69%).
83% reported that they would end business dealings with a company if the company misused customer information.
63% disagreed that existing law provides adequate protections against privacy invasions.
57% reported that most businesses do not handle personal information in a confidential and proper way.
In the offline context, 87% of respondents reported that they had refused to give information to a business because the collection of information was unnecessary or too personal. 83% had asked a company to remove their name and address from mailing lists.
The survey also illustrated that internal security of companies that collect personal data is important. For instance, 84% thought it was important that internal access to data be limited. 89% reported that companies should not release personal data without permission or legal justification.
Public Is Wary but Supportive on Rights Curbs, New York Times Poll, December 12, 2001.
A New York Times/CBS News Poll of 1,052 adult by phone found that:
65% reported being concerned about losing civil liberties.
75% reported that investigation of religious groups without cause violates rights.
65% of respondents reported that they did not want the government to monitor the communications of ordinary Americans to reduce the threat of terrorism.
Americans were divided on the increased use of wiretaps to deter terrorism. Immediately after the attacks, 53% supported more surveillance and 36% thought more surveillance would violate Constitutional rights. In December 48% supported more surveillance, and 44% though that surveillance would violate rights.
A Harris Interactive poll of 1,012 adults by telephone finds that the public shows strong support for new surveillance technologies, but also that citizens are concerned about police abuse of new surveillance powers. 68% support national ID systems, and 86% support facial recognition technology.
However, respondents also expressed that these new surveillance technologies increased risk of police abuse. Respondents identified the following risks: profiling based on nationality, race, or religion (44% highly concerned), monitoring of innocent persons' communications (45% highly concerned), targeting of legitimate political groups (32% highly concerned).
Additionally, a majority of respondents reported that they were concerned that new police powers would be used for crimes other than terrorism and that judges would not give adequate oversight of police surveillance activities.
Harris Poll, August, 2001 (Survey Source: Harris / 14875).
A Harris survey of 1017 Americans adults asked respondents to define what aspects of privacy were important to them. Question 705 asked respondents how important certain aspects of privacy are to them.
- Not being disturbed at home: Respondents reported extremely important (55%), somewhat important (35%), not very important (5%), and not important at all (3%).
- Not being monitored at work: Respondents reported extremely important (41%), somewhat important (39%), not very important (10%), and not important at all (9%).
- Being in control of who can get information about you: Respondents reported extremely important (84%), somewhat important (10%), not very important (1%), and not important at all (2%).
- Not having someone watch you or listen to you without your permission: Respondents reported extremely important (80%), somewhat important (12%), not very important (3%), and not important at all (2%).
- Controlling what information is collected about you: Respondents reported extremely important (79%), somewhat important (15%), not very important (3%), and not important at all (1%).
- Being able to share confidential matters with someone you trust: Respondents reported extremely important (81%), somewhat important (16%), not very important (1%), and not important at all (1%).
- Being able to go around in public without always being identified: Respondents reported extremely important (48%), somewhat important (31%), not very important (11%), and not important at all (9%).
- Being able to have times when you are completely alone, away from anyone else: Respondents reported extremely important (65%), somewhat important (26%), not very important (5%), and not important at all (2%).
Online Privacy Continues to Be a Major Concern for Consumers, Yankee Group Trend Summary, August 2001. Cited in Yankee Group: 83% of Public Concerned About Privacy, EPIC Digest, August 8, 2001
A Yankee Group survey of 3000 online consumers found that 83% of respondents are somewhat or very concerned about privacy on the Internet.
Toward a Framework for Internet Accountability, Markle Foundation, July 2001. Press release at: Markle Releases Major Study On Governing The Internet, Markle Foundation Press Release, July 10, 2001.
A telephone survey of 2,393 adults conduct by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found:
64% reported that government should formulate rules to protect Internet users, even if the rules require regulation of the Internet.
58% reported that industry self-regulation alone does not give adequate accountability.
54% reported that individuals do not have the same rights in the in online world as they do in the offline world.
Majority of E-mail Users Express Concern about Internet Privacy But only 28% are "very" concerned, Gallup Poll, June 28, 2001.
A Gallup Poll of e-mail users found that two-thirds of respondents favor federal legislation to ensure citizens' privacy online. Frequent users are more likely to favor the passage of new laws than infrequent users. Additionally, individuals under the age of 50 were among the strongest supporters of privacy laws.
Freedom of Information in the Digital Age, American Society of Newspaper Editors Freedom of Information Committee and the First Amendment Center, April 3, 2001. (Press release at Public support for government openness tempered by privacy concerns, Freedom Forum, April 3, 2001.)
In interviews with 1,005 adults, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the First Amendment Center (FAC) found that:
89% were concerned about their personal privacy. Privacy, among the respondents, was as important as concerns about crime, access to quality health care, and the future of the social security system.
54% agreed that laws should be strengthened to protect personal privacy, even if legislation resulted in losing access to some public records.
54% said that driver's license information "probably" or "should" not be made available to the public.
90% said that it was not legitimate for states to sell driver's license or car registration information to businesses.
60% "strongly approve" and 16% "somewhat approve" of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which requires opt-in consent before motor vehicle information can be released to businesses.
59% said that divorce records "probably" or "should" not be made available to the public.
76% either "somewhat" or "strongly" disagreed with the proposition that all government records should be made available over the Internet.
The ASNE/FAC study showed that individuals feared both commercial-sector and government invasions of privacy. 51% were "very concerned" and 30% were "somewhat concerned" that a company might violate their personal privacy. 50% were "very concerned" and 30% were "somewhat" concerned that government might violate their personal privacy.
19% were aware that a private company had misused their personal information.
7% were aware that the government had misused their personal information.
52% reported that they had "very little" or "no confidence at all" that private companies use personal information exactly the way they said they would.
40% reported that they had "very little" or "no confidence at all" that the government uses personal information exactly the way they said they would.
86% were concerned about private companies selling their personal information.
86% were concerned about the government selling their personal information.
70% had refused to give information to a company because it was too personal.
62% had asked to have their name removed from marketing lists.
71% believe that is acceptable for privacy laws to hinder marketers in their attempts to reach customers.
Surviving the Privacy Revolution, Forrester Research, March 2001. Press release at: Companies Must Adopt A Whole-View Approach To Privacy, Forrester Research, March 2001.
For this report, Forrester interviewed legal, academic, and industry experts, and application and content developers.
Forrester concluded that companies need to institutionalize respect for privacy in order to emerge as a credible organization.
The report also claims that 6% of Americans have a high level of trust in the storage of their personal information by web sites, and 7 out of 8 express interest in legislation protecting Internet privacy.
To Opt-In or Opt-Out? It Depends on the Question, Communications of the ACM, February 2001.
In this paper, researchers Steven Bellman, Eric Johnson, and Gerald Lohse argue that: "Using the right combination of question framing and default answer, an online organization can almost guarantee it will get the consent [for information collection] of nearly every visitor to its site."
They conclude: "Regulation that genuinely aims to promote consumer from privacy infringement should also stipulate the form of the question asking for a consumer's consent."
Privacy Concerns: Is It Time for the Government to Act?, Wirthlin Report, January 2001.
In telephone surveys of 1,201 adults in June 2000, 150 senior-level U.S. executives in September 2000, and a "quorum" survey of 1,000 adults in January 2001, Wirthlin Worldwide found that:
35% of consumers polled and 29% of corporate executives were "extremely worried or concerned" that their personal information might be misused by a company.
62% of consumers who did not shop online did not do so because of "major concerns" over privacy and security of their personal information.
The five most frequently mentioned feelings associated with transmitting personal information online were cautious (92%), hesitant (81%), suspicious (72%), uncertain (68%), and uneasy (64%).
Trust and Privacy Online: Why Americans Want to Rewrite the Rules, Pew Internet & American Life Project, August 20, 2000.
In a survey of 2,117 Americans, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that:
86% support opt-in privacy policies before companies use personal information.
54% believe that web site tracking of users is harmful and privacy invasive.
24% of Internet users reported giving false information to a web site. 20% gave alternative or secondary e-mail addresses to web sites.
56% cannot identify a cookie.
The Pew study showed strong support for accountability. 94% of Internet users reported that privacy violators should be disciplined. This included support for prison terms (11%), fines (27%), and closing the offending website (26%).
The Internet and the Family 2000: The View from Parents, The View from Kids, University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, May 2000. (Press release at: The Internet and Family 2000, Annenberg Public Policy Center, May 16, 2000.)
This report analyzed the different attitudes of parents and kids towards giving out personal information online. Released in May 2000, the report found that children are more likely than their parents to reveal personal or family information online. Also, while 89% of parents believe that the Internet is beneficial, 74% of parents surveyed cited concerns about their children divulging personal information on the Web.
BusinessWeek/Harris Poll: A Growing Threat, BusinessWeek Magazine, March 2000.
A telephone poll of 1,014 adults conducted by Harris Interactive found that:
89% were uncomfortable with schemes that merged tracking of browsing habits with an individual's identity.
95% were uncomfortable with profiles that included tracking of browsing habits, identity, and other data, such as income and credit data.
57% favor laws to regulate how personal information is collected and used.
78% were concerned that businesses would use personal information to send unwanted junk mail.
63% were uncomfortable with tracking users' movements on the Internet, even when the clickstream was not linked to personally-identifiable information.
92% were uncomfortable with web sites that shared user information with other organizations.
93% were uncomfortable with web sites that sold user information to other organizations.
91% were uncomfortable with information sharing that allow tracking users across multiple web sites.
35% reported that privacy notices were "absolutely essential" and 40% reported that privacy notices were "very important."
56% reported that they would always "opt-out" of information collection if given the chance.
88% of respondents reported that web sites should gain affirmative opt-in consent before sharing personal information with others.
This BusinessWeek study was performed by Harris (Survey Collection: Harris / 12059 IRSS Study Number: S12059). Harris asked a series of questions surrounding opt-in. The interviewer asked respondents whether how often they would like a web site to ask permission before using name, address, and telephone number; e-mail address; browsing habits or shopping patterns.
- Name, address and telephone number: Respondents reported all of the time (85%), only the first time (5%), occasionally (3%), and Never (5%).
- E-mail address: Respondents reported all of the time (78%), only the first time (8%), occasionally (7%), never (5%).
- Browsing habits or shopping patterns: Respondents reported all of the time (76%), only the first time (8%), occasionally (7%), and never (7%).
- Demographic information (i.e. age, gender, race): Respondents reported all of the time (69%), only the first time (11%), occasionally (11%), and never (7%).
- Medical information: Respondents reported all of the time (84%), only the first time (3%), occasionally (3%), and never (8%).
- Financial information: Respondents reported all of the time (85%), only the first time (3%), occasionally (1%), and never (8%).
USA Weekend poll, USA Weekend Magazine, July 2, 2000.
In this poll, Opinion Research Group Corporation contacted a random sample of 1,017 adults in the United States between May 11-14, 2000. USA Weekend reported the following results:
43% say the government poses the greatest threat to their privacy
24% say the media pose the greatest threat
18% say corporations pose the greatest threat
84% say too many people have access to their credit report
79% say too many people have access to their financial records
62% say too many people have access to their driving record
61% say too many people have access to their medical records
75% of respondents report that phone calls at home from telemarketers are an invasion of privacy.
65% of respondents report that Internet companies tracking computer use is an invasion of privacy.
60% of respondents report that sending junk mail is an invasion of privacy.
47% of respondents report that receiving unsolicited e-mails from marketing companies is an invasion of privacy.
This study also demonstrated that many individuals engaged in privacy self-defense. 61% had reported refusing to give out their credit card number, 58% refused to give out their Social Security number, 38% Limited the amount of information printed on checks, and 16% installed privacy software on their computers.
53% of respondents are extremely concerned with their ability to keep personal information private
51% of respondents think current laws do an inadequate job of protecting their right to privacy
The Internet's Privacy Migraine, Forrester Research, May 2000.
In this report, Forrester Researchers predict that consumer concern over privacy will result in two waves of privacy legislation in Congress. Congress should adopt technology-neutral privacy legislation, and self-regulatory efforts to education consumers will be likely to backfire.
Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, April 2000. (Reported in Minnesotans make public their desire for more privacy; Proposals to restrict telemarketers, others find broad support, Minnesota Star Tribune, April 6, 2000 at 1B.)
In a poll of 1,021 Minnesotans, the Star Tribune found that:
86% reported that they supported a state-administered do-not-call (DNC) list to avoid telemarketing sales calls.
87% reported that they supported a ban on the commercial sharing of their phone-calling and Web-browsing habits unless the company obtains a consumer's permission.
The IBM-Harris Multi-National Consumer Privacy Survey, Privacy & American Business, Vol. 7, No. 6, January 2000. This study is summarized online in IBM-Harris Survey Finds Privacy Active Consumers in Europe, U.S., PXNEWSFLASH, December 16, 1999.
More people in the United States believe that personal information is vulnerable to misuse than respondents in the United Kingdom or Germany.
Specifically, 94% of consumers surveyed in the United States think that personal information is vulnerable to misuse.
78% do so in the United Kingdom.
72% do so in Germany.
Consumers in all three countries also reported that they had refused to give information to a business for privacy reasons. Specifically, 78% of Americans, 58% of the British, and 52% of the German respondents reported withholding information.
Additionally, 58% of American respondents asked a company to remove them from marketing lists.
Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, Fall 1999. Reported in Report Slams Privacy Policies; Poll Finds Privacy is Top Concern, EPIC Alert, September 23, 1999.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 2,025 adults by phone found that the loss of personal privacy was the number one concern of Americans as twenty-first century approaches. 29% of respondents reported that the "loss of personal privacy" was a top concern. Privacy outranked other high-profile concerns such as overpopulation (23%), terrorist acts (23%), racial tensions (17%), world war (16%), and global warming (14%).
The Privacy Best Practice, Forrester Research, September 1999. Press release at Forrester Technographics Finds Online Consumers Fearful Of Privacy Violations, Forrester Research, October 27, 1999.
A Forrester Research survey of 10,000 Americans and Canadians on consumer behavior found:
67% reported being extremely or very concerned about releasing personal information online.
54% of Internet users would not share their name with web sites.
90% report that they want the ability to control how their information is used after collection.
As a result of privacy risks online, Internet users spent $2.8 billion less online than they otherwise would have in 1999.
Beyond Concern: Understanding Net Users' Attitudes About Online Privacy, AT&T Research, April 14, 1999.
In a survey mailed to 1,500 individuals and completed by 381 people, AT&T researchers found:
Internet users are more likely to provide information when they are not identified.
Internet users dislike automatic data transfer.
Gallup Poll, conducted February 8-9, 1999.
A survey of 1,054 adults by phone found:
70% responded that the Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to privacy.
AARP Survey, December 1998
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted interviews with 501 randomly-selected AARP members.
78% of the respondents believed that federal and state laws are not strong enough to protect personal privacy from businesses that collect information about consumers.
92% objected to businesses selling their personal information.
93% objected to government selling their personal information.
87% objected to web sites selling their personal information.
81% opposed internal sharing of personal and financial information by businesses with their affiliates. 10% supported affiliate information sharing, however, a majority of that group specified that affiliate sharing should only occur after the institution gave notice and obtained written consent from the data subject.
A majority of respondents indicated that they wanted businesses to obtain individuals' consent before collecting information regarding bank account balances, medical history, product purchases, service purchases, long distance carrier information, Social Security Numbers, income, and financial assets owned.
42% of respondents did not know whom they would turn to for assistance if a company inappropriately shared or sold their personal information.
A 1998 survey conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center produced the following results:
26% of respondents had an unlisted phone number.
77% of respondents reported that privacy was more important than convenience.
Only 10% reported that an e-mail address should be collected when visiting a web page.
71% agreed with the statement that "there should be new laws to protect privacy on the Internet."
84% rejected the proposition that content providers have the right to sell user data.
90% agree that a "user ought to have complete control over which sites get what demographic information."
80% rejected the proposition that "Magazines to which I subscribe have the right to sell my name and address to companies they feel will interest me."
73% object to mass mailings that are specifically targeted to demographics.
90% objected to receiving "mass electronic mailings."
58% agreed that individuals "Ought to be able to Assume Different Aliases/Roles on the Internet."
93% agreed that "I ought to be able to communicate over the Internet without people being able to read the content."
52% agreed that "I would prefer Internet payment systems that are anonymous to those that are user identified."
82% objected to tracking individuals on the Internet for marketing purposes.
A 1997 survey conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center produced the following results:
25% of respondents did not know what "cookies" are.
72% agreed that new laws are needed to protect privacy on the Internet.
82% reject the notion that content providers have the right to resell user information.
Money Magazine Poll, August 1997.
88% of the public favors a privacy bill of rights. This bill of rights would require companies to tell consumers and employees exactly what kind of personal information they collect and how they use it.
A 1997 survey conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center produced the following results:
Approximately 40% of respondents reported that they had provided false information to web sites. 14% of respondents reported falsifying information over 25% of the time that they provided personal data.
As with the 1996 study, the 7th WWW study also found strong support for anonymity. When asked to rate certain issues on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 representing "strong agreement," respondents supported private communication on the Internet (4.70), respondents supported the anonymous nature of the Internet (4.46), respondents favored new laws to protect Internet privacy (3.79), respondents favored anonymous payment systems (3.93), and respondents favored the ability to create multiple aliases on the Internet (3.67).
A 1996 survey conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center produced the following results:
33% of respondents reported providing false information to a web site while registering.
The study found strong support for anonymity. When asked to rate certain issues on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 representing "strong agreement," respondents supported private communication on the Internet (4.70), respondents supported the anonymous nature of the Internet (4.46), respondents favored new laws to protect Internet privacy (3.79), respondents favored anonymous payment systems (3.93), and respondents favored the ability to create multiple aliases on the Internet (3.67).
Direct Magazine, June 15, 1996.
86% reported that they supported legislation that would establish an opt-in procedure before names were included on a mailing list.
78% reported that they supported an opt-in system, even if it meant that they would not receive new mailings.
58% reported that they wanted to outlaw the collection and dissemination of Social Security numbers.
A copy of the full report can be ordered from DIRECT Survey, Cowles Business Media, 470 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016.
A 1996 survey conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology's Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center produced the following results:
When asked to rate certain issues on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 representing "agree strongly ," respondents supported anonymity on the Internet (4.6), they supported "complete" control over demographic information (4.4), and they support the ability to assume different aliases on the Internet (3.7).
Internet users strongly disagreed with the proposition that content providers have the right to resell users' information (1.7).
Attitudes Towards Wiretapping, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Published in the 1994 Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics.
Since 1974, between 70-80% of respondents report that they oppose wiretapping.
1991 TIME-CNN Poll
93% of respondents believed that the law should require companies to obtain permission from consumers before selling their personal information.
1990 Harris Poll, January 1990 (Harris study no. 892049).
43% of respondents were very concerned and 35% were somewhat concerned about threats to their personal privacy.
79% of respondents believed that the drafters of the Declaration of Independence would have included "privacy" along with the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
58% of respondents opposed the creation of a national work identification card for all Americans.
65% of respondents support creating a privacy protection commission. Of the 65%, 41% reported that the commission should have regulatory enforcement power.
- Privacy, Costs, and Consumers Privacy, Consumers, and Costs: How the Lack of Privacy Costs Consumers and Why Business Studies of Privacy Costs are Biased and Incomplete, Robert Gellman, March 2002.
- Oscar H. Gandy, Jr. The role of theory in the policy process. A response to Professor Westin. pp. 99-106 in C. Firestone and J. Schement (Eds.). Toward an Information Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Washington DC: The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, 1995.
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Poll Page.
- About Polling, Public Agenda.org.
- 20 Questions Journalists Should Ask About Poll Results, National Council on Public Polls.
- Best Practices for Survey and Public Opinion Research, American Association of Public Opinion Research.
- The Odum Institute. Has a searchable database of polling question data.
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