A recent study by PayPal demonstrated that half of all respondents couldn’t identify all the websites that were collecting their digital information, with a quarter of respondents reportedly disinterested in internet security and a one third of respondents unable to identify an internet scam.
This study was a small, but it brings up two questions: do people understand the extent of their digital footprint and do people care?
Do people understand the extent of their digital footprint?
Digital companies collect a bevy of personal information. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and others collect information from their organic sites but also from sites that use their login prompts. Credit card companies collect information about every purchase you make. Social
influence aggregation tools like Klout gain access to a multitude of social profiles and is able to collect and consolidate all of that data. In fact, the percentage of people who are unaware of how their online behavior is collected is probably closer to 100% (subtracting non-participants). Challenge yourself to the proposition that this study asked: name every digital property that collects information from your web travels. I can’t with any certainty.
This small-scale study probably gives us a clue of how oblivious many people are about the extent of online data-collection. But my next proposition is even more troubling: how many people care?
Do people care about their digital footprint?
In Universal McCann’s Wave6 study last year, they reported that the United States was at the far extreme of the privacy spectrum with about 65% of people concerned with the amount of personal data that they share online. Germany, France and Turkey were on the other end of the spectrum with somewhere between 50% and 60% concern about privacy. Depending upon where you live, between 35% and 50% of the population are okay with surrendering private information online. This is good information in theory, but with 1 billion people on Facebook and many others exclusively on other networks, in practice nearly everyone is acquiescent to these data-collection practices.
What do you think? Is there any value for privacy protection or data protection? To what extent can any information be protected? I’m curious to know your opinion on this.