Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information

A majority of Americans believe their online and offline activities are being tracked and monitored by companies and the government with some regularity. It is such a common condition of modern life that roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults say they do not think it is possible to go through daily life without having data collected about them by companies or the government.

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large shares of U.S. adults are not convinced they benefit from this system of widespread data gathering. Some 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection. At the same time, a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%). Most also feel they have little or no control over how these entities use their personal information,

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Fully 97% of Americans say they are ever asked to approve privacy policies, yet only about one-in-five adults overall say they always (9%) or often (13%) read a company’s privacy policy before agreeing to it. Some 38% of all adults maintain they sometimes read such policies, but 36% say they never read a company’s privacy policy before agreeing to it.

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Among adults who say they ever read privacy policies before agreeing to their terms and conditions, only a minority – 22% – say they read them all the way through before agreeing to their terms and conditions.

There is also a general lack of understanding about data privacy laws among the general public: 63% of Americans say they understand very little or nothing at all about the laws and regulations that are currently in place to protect their data privacy.

Source: Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information | Pew Research Center