Online Privacy and Security | Survey Data


When the Snowden Leaks brought the topic of (online) privacy back in the limelight in US public discourse, the Pew Research Center started an in-depth exploration of the topic. We collected various survey data from Pew investigations between 2013 and 2015 to get a better view on the internet-using American's understanding of and behaviors relating to online privacy.

Distrusting online privacy and security

The vast majority of US consumers feel they lack control over their online personal information (91%). More specifically, many (50%) say they lack control over how much information exactly is being collected and how it is used. 

A majority even believes it is impossible to be completely anonymous online (59%).

Percentage of respondents that indicated they...

Distrusting that government or internet service providers can protect online privacy and security

The distrust of various agencies people interact online with is very high. There is an overwhelming feeling that records of people's activities on these agency's sites are not private and secure. 

Distrust of online advertisers is highest (76%) but is not that much higher than distrust of social media sites (69%), search engine providers (66%) or even government agencies (54%).

A large majority (68%) also indicates that current laws are insufficient to protect online privacy.

Percentage of respondents that indicated they...

Source: Pew Research Center.

Appreciating the value of online privacy and security

Alongside the negative views on their current state of online privacy, Americans also show a general appreciation of the importance of online privacy. Nine out of ten say it is important to be in control of who can get information about them (93%) and what information about them is collected (90%). 

Half of the surveyed Americans worry about the amount of information about them online. 


Having online privacy and security breached

The number of self-reported breaches of online privacy is substantial and underpin the general distrust of the privacy and security of online personal information.

A fifth of Americans say they have had their email or social network account compromised (21%). 11% say they have had personal information stolen and 12% say they have been stalked or harassed online.

Another 6% say they have lost money to online scams and 4% say they have been in physical danger because of something that happened online. 

Percentage of respondents that indicated they...

Percentage of respondents that indicated they...

Taking action to enhance online privacy and security

While a majority (86%) report they take steps online to remove or mask their digital footprint, these steps predominantly are things like clearing cookies and browser histories (64%), or deleting something they had posted in the past (41%).

Only a small group indicate they use more sophisticated steps, like encrypting their communications (14%) or using services that allow them to browse the web anonymously (14%).

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