On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released its third report on Americans’ attitudes towards privacy and surveillance. While the report confirms previous findings that, no, privacy is not dead, it focuses a broader look at Americans’ views on privacy in public and information control. It finds that our privacy-values are particularly heightened with respect “to having a sense of control over who collects information and when and where activities can be observed.”
Nearly all adults report that who is gathering information and what information are an essential dimension of privacy control. Strong majorities believe — 74% believe “very strongly” — that it is important to be in control of who can get information about you. Home continues to be viewed as “do not disturb” zones, which may present interesting implications for the emerging Internet of Things. And by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe in limits on employer-monitoring of employees.
One particularly interesting finding from the report are the Americans’ views toward data retention broadly. Most Americans believe that only “a few months” or less is long enough for companies to store most records of their activities. Different industry sectors get more or less leeway. For example, majorities support credit card companies retaining their data, but even here, the length of time people feel are reasonable retention periods varies. Once again, strong majorities were skeptical of the need for online advertisers to “safe any info” about them for lengthy periods of time, if at all.
The Future of Privacy Forum’s Capitol-Area Academic Network was privileged enough to discuss the Pew privacy project with the report’s authors last fall, and Pew’s series continues to demonstrate not only the value of privacy — but the strong need to think about better ways to offer privacy controls and communicate practices with consumers.
-Joseph Jerome, Policy Counsel