Recent studies have revealed that most Americans are concerned that their online and offline activities are monitored and tracked by governments and private companies in the US. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, about six in ten adults in the US believe it impossible to complete a day of living without having data collected about them.
Mixed Feelings About Digital Tracking
This breach of privacy has people experiencing mixed feelings. According to a new 2023 Forbes Advisor study, 38% of individuals experience anxiety, fear, and stress due to their online activities being tracked. In addition, to substantiate the Pew research study, Forbes uncovered 45% of Americans believe they're tracked online daily.
Regarding whether governments or companies worry people more, it was determined that 46% believe companies are tracking their data, while 7% believe the same about the government. Yet, 30% of US citizens believe the government looks over their online activities weekly.
Most people who feel their online data is being tracked feel they can't do much about this unfortunate reality, especially considering the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is beginning to play a major role in society. For example, few people realize that AI is everywhere.
It is not only linked to apps like ChatGPT and Merlin but instead is involved with everything from sending emails to obtaining movie and music suggestions.
Additionally, although there are tools that allow individuals to protect their data from other entities like VPNs, it's important to stay informed and know the happenings surrounding online data collection.
What Are The Majority of Americans Concerned About The Most in Terms of Government Tracking?
There are certain areas concerning online data that people are concerned the most about. This is unsurprising considering modern technology, recent statistics on the topic, and the USA Patriot Act granting the US government considerable surveillance liberties.
These include giving the government access to bank and credit reporting records, social media communications, phone records, and, you guessed it, online activity. The government can get this data through smartphones, websites, and social media platforms through this act.
Yet, one of the major points of concern is that one in four people find targeted ads off-putting and concerning. This is especially true when an individual has been searching for products to buy online, and the ads appear on their social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram.
However, this doesn't mean everyone is concerned about the government tracking their online data. In fact, the Forbes survey revealed that 16% of respondents felt safe with government tracking while 17% were okay with companies monitoring their online activity – but these are the minorities.
How Aware Are People of Their Online Presence and Data Collection?
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Most people don't realize how much of their data can be accessed online via the government and various companies. But of those who do recognize how much of their data is being collected, 55% feel they have no control over the entities tracking their text messages and phone calls.
According to the Robot Digital Marketing Agency, about 32% of people don't know that their location is collected to display various personalized ads. This personalized information includes their unique identification code, with 64% not realizing this is captured, and their birth year, with 54% not aware this is collected. Other data points often collected include past purchase history, phone model data, IP addresses, and operating systems.
Yet, even though data tracking is incredibly prevalent, only 23% of internet users read privacy policies and terms of service when accessing their information. In addition, on the opposite end of the spectrum, 60% of Americans believe that companies will admit if they have used online data without express consent. This demonstrates that a majority of people do have trust in companies owning up to data breach mistakes and other data collection concerns.
Online Data Tracking Concerns via States
According to a recent study, it was determined that about 60% of people believe that their phones are listening to them, with the conspiracy less common among Android users and more common among iPhone users.
In addition, numerous individuals believe their Alexa is eavesdropping on their conversations, and around three in four claim their smart home devices are always listening to them. In the wake of this, it's unsurprising that some states are more suspicious than others, and some people staying in these states have different online data concerns than others. How
Using Google search trends, this same study found what people are most worried about privacy-wise regarding online data tracking in each state. According to the findings, the top ten concerns were app hacking, Alexa listening, targeted ads, going off the grid, Google spying on us, geolocation/location tracking, spy apps, buying a flip phone, app tracking, phone listening, and app hacking. For example, in eight states like Maryland, New Jersey, California, and Hawaii, the number one concern was Alexa listening.
However, the consensus across Americans nationwide is that they don't want anyone to know their whereabouts, with most concerned about their US geolocation being collected via online data entry platforms.