Concerns about privacy and security are discouraging people from posting to social networks, expressing controversial opinions, conducting online banking and shopping from online retailers. That's according to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which released a report today examining whether attitudes toward online security and privacy affect people's Web use.
"In addition to being a problem of great concern to many Americans, privacy and security issues may reduce economic activity and hamper the free exchange of ideas online," policy analyst Rafi Goldberg writes in the report.
The report is based on a 2015 survey of more than 41,000 households with at least one Internet user. Almost half of those households (45%) said they have curbed online activity due to privacy or security fears.
While many respondents expressed concerns relating to identity theft, a high number also appeared to be troubled by the less tangible privacy implications of data collection. Almost one in four U.S. households (23%) listed data collection by online services as a major concern, while 22% said they were concerned by the prospect of "losing control" over their data. A smaller proportion (18%) said they were concerned about data collection by the government.
The report comes as regulators on the Federal Communications Commission are considering whether to impose new privacy rules that would limit broadband providers' ability to use data about subscribers' Web use for ad targeting purposes.
While the NTIA doesn't address specific regulations in the report, the agency calls for policymakers to study people's "mistrust in the privacy and security of the Internet and the resulting chilling effects."