Pew Research finds more Americans value their privacy in the abstract than in reality

052015blog pew research survey on privacy

The Pew Research survey results in the above graphic show Americans care plenty about privacy, but they also say a lot about how that concern rises and falls depending on the situation. And not in a good way.

Pew asked 461 adults:

In response to the following question: “Privacy means different things to different people today. In thinking about all of your daily interactions – both online and offline – please tell me how important each of the following are to you …”

Pew headlines the results this way: “Americans hold strong views about privacy in everyday life.”

That’s true: More than half declared each of the nine statements either very or somewhat important and fully six statements registered 85% or higher.

Nevertheless, I found the differences in the support for the two most popular and the two least popular striking.

The top two:

  • Being in control of who can get info about you.
  • Being able to share confidential matters with someone you trust.

An overwhelming 93 percent said they find these concepts important, or roughly what you’d expect for what passes in privacy discussion as motherhood and apple pie. In the abstract, it’s easy to express a desire for control over who gets your info. And who doesn’t value a confidante (I mean other than the inexplicable 3 percent in this poll)?

Then we get to the two least valued statements:

  • Being able to go around in public without always being identified.
  • Not being monitored at work.

Thirty percent, give or take, find little or no value in these privacy concepts. It could be resignation – they have become largely relics, after all. But it’s also true that a bunch of people actually welcome omnipresent surveillance in public and in the workplace.

They don’t see it as being directed at themselves, of course, they see it as being directed at them.

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