Even before NSA scandal, US residents were anxious about privacy breaches

US residents feel that they have little or no control over the type of information that is collected and used

Even before bombshell disclosures of the U.S. government's massive collection of Internet and cellphone data, many U.S. residents were very concerned about privacy violations.

In a survey conducted just days before reports surfaced about widespread data collection by the U.S. National Security Agency, 85 per cent of U.S. residents said they were worried about unauthorised access by the government and corporations to personal information like phone records, emails and Web activity.

Two thirds of them feel that they have little or no control over the type of information that is collected and used by those organisations and almost 60 per cent said that they are unable to correct inaccurate personal information, according to the 17th Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll that was released Thursday.

The survey was conducted between May 29 and June 2 and reveals that more than 20,000 U.S. residents interviewed are anxious about their privacy.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said they had "some" or a "great deal" of trust in the government when it comes to use of their personal data. And 28 per cent of the respondents said they trusted cellphone and Internet services with respect to responsible use of information.

However, not all organisations are seen as untrustworthy. Health care providers and employers are seen as the most trustworthy institutions, with 80 per cent saying that they have some or a great deal of trust in them.

Banks and lawyers were also among the most trusted while media and social media companies are distrusted, said Marci Kaminsky, senior vice-president of public relations for Allstate Insurance Company, during a webcast presentation of the survey results.

U.S. residents are optimists and see solutions to their privacy worries, but they don't believe the government should meddle more. Very few, just 10 per cent, favuor expanded government monitoring of cellphone and email activity. Forty-four per cent favour increased camera surveillance of public places, the poll showed. Only 16 per cent of respondents were in favour of "increased censorship of websites and less freedom to access sources on the Internet."

U.S. residents are also worried about privacy for the next generation. Nine in 10 respondents said they have less privacy than previous generations and they also expect the next generation to have even less privacy. A clear majority of 88 per cent said they favor a federal policy that would require the deletion of online information.

Despite the overall discomfort with the collection and usage of information, a majority of respondents recognise that they could benefit from certain forms of personal data collection. More than two-thirds think, for instance, that exposing personal data is a tradeoff for using things like social networking sites and IM/video chat services that let them stay in touch with friends and relatives. They also feel they benefit from relevant, targeted advertising that informs them better about products and services, and offers them deals, the poll showed.

Jon Leibowitz, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, discussed the poll results during the presentation and said he can benefit from Internet data collections.

"I myself don't mind behavioural advertising," he said, adding that he thinks people who want to opt out should be able to do so. "Your computer is your property and people shouldn't be putting things in it without your consent."

People are also right to be concerned about the NSA's recently disclosed data collection practices, and this heightened awareness will make them more skeptical about data collected by the private sector as well, said Leibowitz.

Some of the biggest privacy threats comes from data gathering companies that lack adequate data security and companies that sell and combine that data, Leibowitz said. Congress should draft a comprehensive privacy protection bill, he said.

"Doing a privacy bill is something that will definitely be on our plate," said Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and member of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, during the presentation. But she also noted that data is a great resource that can bring new products and medical information and solutions to Americans.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Jon LeibowitzNational Security AgencyMarsha BlackburnMarci KaminskysecurityAllstate Insuranceprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?