Fewer Than Half Know How to Protect Privacy Online

Online PrivacyThe good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project have done it again.

They have the substantial mandate to chronicle the use of the internet and technology among Americans.  As part of that responsibility they publish regular reports which do a good job of measuring various technology related phenomena – some of which is less than exciting, but they provide a good service by putting numbers to things about which others merely guess.

However, it seems that in every report they release, there is at least one nugget of information which surprises, provokes thought, and even inspires.

Their latest report, Search Engine Use 2012, by project director Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell and Joanna Brenner, contains just such a nugget.

They asked internet users the following question:

Are you aware of any ways Internet users like yourself can limit how much personal information websites collect about you, or are you not aware of any ways to do this?

Only 38% said they knew how to limit the personal information collected by websites!

Pew Internet Privacy Chart

Think about that for a moment.  Three of five American internet users don’t even know what to do to protect their privacy, even if they have privacy concerns.

Further, only 75% of those who use any method of privacy protection whatsoever have actually used the privacy settings of the websites they visit.

This data is a sobering reminder that technology providers, marketers and market researchers all have a responsibility to educate the consumers with whom they interact, be they customers, prospects or survey respondents.

To be sure, if internet users are educated about privacy issues, they will be more likely to seek privacy solutions.  At a minimum, however, we need to make it very clear to them how they can choose various privacy levels.

How do you approach privacy when working with respondents or customers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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