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Image credit: Pew Internet Project

Librarians have long been advocates for the privacy rights of ordinary citizens, whether they are protecting citizens from the government, corporations, or even libraries themselves. While it is not news that Americans are increasingly concerned about the status of their personal information, the extent to which they are concerned about their privacy across various media platforms, delineated in a new survey by Pew Research Internet Project, is staggering.

Pew surveyed 607 American adults about their perceptions of their own data security (“security” being the word most closely associated with “privacy” in Americans’ minds for this study), and almost all (91%) of the respondents agreed that they felt a lack of control over what information is collected by the government and commercial entities. Combine this with the fact that nearly all survey respondents (95%) have heard at least “a little” or “a lot” about government surveillance programs, and that those who have heard “a lot” are more likely to feel concerned about sharing information. These data imply that awareness of the issue correlates with heightened insecurity about the status of one’s data. Although respondents said they felt most secure communicating over a landline, out of six communication technologies there wasn’t a single one that they considered “very secure” for sharing private information.

It is difficult to discern, however, whom American adults believe should be most responsible for ensuring data privacy. Two thirds (64%) thought the government should be more involved in protecting personal data, and nearly the same amount (61%) felt that they would like to put forth more effort in securing their own personal information.

It should be noted, though, that while the survey indicates overall concern and distrust about how information in online environments is used, very few respondents actually had a negative experience as a result of their data trail. Yet these results clearly demonstrate a need in the American community for more information on how to advocate for and ensure the privacy of personal data.

Find the full Pew report on Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era here.

And, are you looking for resources to help educate your patrons about internet privacy? Check out the Internet Privacy group on DigitalLearn.org.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.