Americans are more worried about their personal information being stolen on Facebook than by government agencies like the National Security Agency, according to a new Pew Research study.
According to the survey that was released on Thursday, 33% of Internet users “wish to avoid hackers, or criminals,” and 28% want to avoid advertisers. Only 5% “reported they wanted to avoid government observation.”
The report also found that 86% of Internet users “have taken steps online to remove, or mask their digital footprints – ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their e-mail,” and 59 percent “do not think it is possible to be completely anonymous online.”
Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, said Americans “are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends, and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government.”
As the Christian Science Monitor notes, though, “government surveillance programs, like the NSA’s PRISM, would not operate if major Internet companies weren’t mining troves of data about their users,” because “the same metadata that tells a social media site what kind of ad to use is the same information that the government accesses to pinpoint national security threats.”
For instance, “Facebook was accused of using approximately 150 million users’ images to promote products and services through the Sponsored Stories program, and ended up agreeing to pay $9.5 million to settle the case,” while “Google is the defendant in an ongoing court case that accuses the company of violating consumers’ privacy by accessing their e-mail content to better target advertising.”