Poll shows Americans deeply concerned about online privacy, mistrust social media

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Almost three-quarters of Americans worry about the quantity of personal information available online and more than half feel they cannot trust social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep their contact information, buying habits and political beliefs confidential, according to new poll data released today at

The data, part of a wide-ranging survey conducted by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark of craigconnects, shows the mistrust of websites and social media, and concerns about privacy rise as Americans get older. Those over 65 expressed the least trust in social media, and were most certain their data was being sold and felt most strongly that privacy laws need to be strengthened.

Seniors expressed concern at roughly twice the rate of poll respondents under 35.

"The data shows very clearly that Americans feel manipulated and exposed by the websites they frequent," said Allyson Kapin, Co-Founder of Rad Campaign, which harnesses the power of the web to push political advocacy and social change. "That may not stop them from using Facebook and Twitter, or other websites, but they are clearly calling for more safeguards so their personal data does not get sold or used for targeted marketing purposes so easily,"  Kapin added. "It's ironic that people are quite concerned about their online privacy, yet the majority of Americans don't realize how much information they are giving away when they sign up for these sites."

At the top of the list of concerns are tracking cookies. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they were concerned about such cookies being placed on their computers without their knowledge, and 36 percent said they knew for a fact that this had happened to them.

The poll suggested that many Americans do not think it is their responsibility to set limits on their privacy. While 60 percent of respondents either thought current privacy laws were too weak or weren't sure, a similar number—66 percent—said they either skim through a website's terms of service (TOS) before agreeing or do not read the terms of service at all.

"On one hand, Americans are quite concerned about their online privacy, but on the other hand the majority of Americans are using websites and social media platforms without reading very much of the TOS," said Stefan Hankin, Founder of polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies. "That's a problem."

"This is a big deal because people put a lot of stuff out there, sometimes inadvertently. We all need to look at this issue," said Craig Newmark of craigconnects and founder of craigslist.

This is the second tranche of data from the poll to be released. Last month, Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and Newmark issued figures showing that about half of Americans under 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, or know someone who has.

Full data from the poll can be found at



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