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PEW Internet & American Life Project has released a new report on online privacy called Digital Footprints by Mary Madde, Susannah Fox, Aaron Smith, and Jessica Vitak. The report provides some very interesting statistics.

1. People are starting to google themselves. According to the survey:

Nearly half of all internet users (47%) have searched for information about themselves online, up from just 22%, as reported by the Pew Internet Project in 2002. Younger users (under the age of 50) are more prone to self-searching than those ages 50 and older. Men and women search for information about themselves in equal numbers, but those with higher levels of education and income are considerably more likely to monitor their online identities using a search engine.

2. Many people are not concerned about the amount of personal information about themselves online:

“Fully 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online. . . . Similarly, the majority of online adults (61%) do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online. Just 38% say they have taken steps to limit the amount of online information that is available about them.

3. Although most people are not surprised about the information that turns up in a google search under their name, a decent amount (21%) are:

Among those who have searched for their name online, 62% find that the amount of relevant information about them generally matches their expectations. One in five selfsearchers (21%) are surprised by how much information they find online about themselves, while 13% express disbelief at how little information comes up in their results.

4. Although teenagers are more likely to have online profiles than adults, a greater percentage of the adults with profiles make them publicly visible than do the teenagers:

The Pew Internet Project has reported extensively on teenagers’ use of social networking websites, finding that 55% of online teens have created an online profile and that most restrict access to them in some way. Looking at adults, their use of social networking profiles is much lower (just 20%), but those who use the sites appear to do so in a more transparent way. . . .

Among adult internet users who maintain an online profile, 82% say that their profile is currently visible compared with 77% of online teens who report this.

5. Most people search for contact information when googling another person, but a decent amount search for other information (photos, records, background):

72% of people searchers have sought contact information online. 37% of people searchers look to the Web for information about someone’s professional accomplishments or interests. 33% of people searchers have sought out someone’s profile on a social and professional networking site. 31% have searched for someone’s photo. 31% have searched for someone else’s public records, such as real estate transactions, divorce proceedings, bankruptcies, or other legal actions. 28% have searched for someone’s personal background information.


Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

If you are interested in privacy and data security issues, there are many great ways Professor Solove can help you stay informed:
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