Adults Feel Personal Information Collected Online Unwarranted

According to a recent Ipsos online study, 45% of U.S. adults feel that they have little (33%) or no (12%) control over the personal information companies gather while they are browsing the web or using online services such as photo sharing, travel, or gaming. Only 21% say that they have at least a significant amount of control over such personal information, while 34% feel that they have moderate control.

24% of adults believe that they have little to no control over information that they intentionally share online through activities like online retail transactions, email, or social media. However, 39% of adults feel that that they do have at least a significant amount of control over the information that they intentionally share vs. information that companies gather from them while they are browsing online.

This lack of confidence may stem from respondents’ lack of understanding of how to protect their online privacy, opines the report. 40% say that totally or mostly understand how to protect their online privacy. 40% report that they moderately understand, and an 20% said that they only minimally understand or are totally confused when it comes to personal online protection.

85% have taken steps to protect their online privacy:

  • By deleting cookies (65%)
  • Opting out of targeted advertising (44%)
  • Uninstalling an app (41%)
  • Request that websites don’t track them (39%)
  • Stopped using an online service e (21%)
  • Changed to a different website or online service (20%)

15% report that they have not taken any of these actions to protect themselves.

32% of respondents say that they always consider a company’s privacy reputation, track record or policies when choosing which websites to visit or online services to use, and an additional 54% sometimes do so. 13% never take these things into account when choosing which websites and online services to use.

When asked under what circumstances companies should be able to track individuals browsing the web or using online services, 60% say this should be allowed only after an individual specifically gives the company permission to do so.

Attitudes About Company Tracking Individuals Online Activities (% of American Adults)

Attitude About Company Tracking

% of Respondents

Should never be allowed to track individual’s online activities


Should be allowed if permission based


Should be allowed if quid-pro-quo


Right to do to any individual “online”


Source: Ipsos, January 2013

Just 20% of adults say that they want to receive personalized advertising based on their web browsing or online service use, while 80% report that they did not wish to receive such ads.

If they have questions, 85% turn to outside sources for guidance about how to protect their online privacy, most commonly a website’s privacy statement (39%) or friends and family (39%). 29% look to company privacy policies, and 21% go to independent privacy or consumer organizations for answers.

When it comes to trusting these outside sources, a third (33%) say that they trust friends and family the most, while 25% feel that independent privacy or consumer organizations are most trustworthy. 22% place their trust in website privacy statement and company privacy policies. Fewer report that government agencies (15%) and news sites (10%) are the sources they trust most.

N.B. Weighting was employed to the study sample to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A similar survey with an unweighted probability sample would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in the United States been polled.

For additional information from Ipsos, please visit here.



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