‘Context’ shapes American attitudes towards privacy

Context is a major factor that influences Americans when it comes to sharing personal information and maintaining privacy, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.

The revealing paper found that many individuals are willing to come to some sort of compromise if, in return, they “receive something of perceived value”.

Respondents to Pew’s poll said that they would feel comfortable in sharing personal information and allowing surveillance if it was of benefit to them.

“The phrase that best captures Americans’ views on the choice between privacy versus disclosure of personal information is: it depends.”

“These findings suggest that the phrase that best captures Americans’ views on the choice between privacy versus disclosure of personal information is ‘it depends’,” the thinktank explained.

“People’s views on the key tradeoff of the modern, digital economy … are shaped by both the conditions of the deal and the circumstances of their lives.”

Pew explored this sensitive issue through six hypothetical scenarios to gauge how protective Americans would be of their privacy.

This included situations to do with office surveillance cameras, smart thermostats, health data, retail loyalty cards, automobile insurance and social media.

While 54% of respondents thought it was acceptable for their employees to install high-resolution cameras with facial recognition technology to keep thieves at bay, only 27% were comfortable with owning a smart thermostat that was capable of remotely tracking where they were in their own home.

The paper also highlighted some of things that people consider when it comes to privacy. Key factors affecting the decision to share more personal information include receiving spam, being at risk of a data breach and “overdone customer profiling”.

“The [research has] found that Americans conjure an array of ideas when they think about privacy,” Pew noted.

“They feel privacy is important in their daily lives in a number of essential ways, starting with the idea of not being under surveillance all the time and the appeal of being able to share ideas and secrets with others in a way that is unobserved.

“Yet, they have a pervasive sense that they are under surveillance when in public. Very few feel they have a great deal of control over the data that is collected about them and how it is used.”

Author , We Live Security

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