For the report, Pew commissioned a January survey of 607 adults, who were asked a host of questions about their thoughts on privacy.
More than nine in 10 respondents, 91%, said that consumers no longer wield control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, while 80% of social networking users said they are concerned that the data they share on those services will be accessed by advertisers or businesses.
What's more, respondents seem eager for new curbs on data mining by marketers. Sixty-four percent of all respondents said the government should do more to regulate how people's personal information is used by advertisers, while 69% of college graduates said they wanted more limits on advertisers.
Survey respondents also indicated that they define “sensitive” data relatively broadly. Seventy percent said they considered their Web browsing history either “very” or “somewhat” sensitive, while 65% said their search history was sensitive, and 51% considered their political views (and candidates they support) to be sensitive.
Most respondents didn't think that either the media they liked or their purchase history were especially sensitive.
Industry groups like the Digital Advertising Alliance tend to define sensitive data as precise financial or health information -- including bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, pharmaceutical prescriptions or medical records related to a specific individual.
Many Americans also appear to question the value of personalization made possible by information about users. Researchers asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data.”
More than half, 61%, said they disagreed, including 15% who strongly disagreed.
At the same time, most respondents (55%) said they were willing to share at least some data to receive free Web services. But a sizable minority (43%) said they didn't want to share data about themselves in exchange for free services.