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Privacy Concerns: Business Over Government

June 4, 2011

According to a new survey, 48 percent of Internet users ages 16 and older are worried about companies checking their actions on the Internet.

“Many of us are worried that the Big Brother in our lives is actually Big Business,” Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, said in a statement referring to the figure that just 38 percent of Internet users are worried about the government watching them online.

“Internet users have major concerns about corporate intrusion — and who can blame them?” said Cole.  “Considering the recent revelations about covert surveillance of personal behavior through GPS tracking and other related issues, we believe that user concerns about the involvement — some would say encroachment — of companies into the lives of Internet users represent a significant issue.”

The Digital Future Project explored over 180 issues during its 10th study of the digital realm.

The survey also found that 33 percent of Internet users say it is safe to voice their political views online.  However, 36 percent believe it is not safe to say whatever one thinks about politics online.

Americans 16 and older spend an average of over 18 hours a week online, of which, 79 percent browse the web, 47 percent spend time online banking and 46 percent spend their time on social networking sites or video-sharing sites.

The Digital Future Project also explored reasons for those Americans who do not use the Internet.  Of the 18 percent of Americans who do not use the Internet, 7 percent said the reason was due to cost.  About 25 percent said they do not go online because they do not find it useful or have no interest, while 37 percent said they did not have a computer or Internet connection.

The Center for the Digital Future telephone and web-base survey was based on 1,926 respondents and was conducted between April and August of 2010.

A separate survey from the Pew Internet & American Life project found earlier this week that 13 percent of adult Internet users have used Twitter, up from 8 percent in November 2010.  It also said that a higher percentage of African Americans and Latinos use Twitter than white people.

“Through our 10 studies, we have observed one particularly fascinating constant: that online behavior changes relentlessly, and users and non-users develop attitudes and actions that are constantly in flux as technology emerges, and then thrives or withers,” Cole said in a statement speaking about the Digital Future Project survey.  

“This report, the nine studies that preceded it, and those that will follow, are our ongoing attempt to chronicle this extraordinary interplay between technology and behavior.”

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