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Americans say they’ve lost control over personal data, survey finds

Los Angeles Times

Americans overwhelmingly think they have lost control over their personal information, with a majority concerned about monitoring of their communications by the government and businesses, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.

The research, published Wednesday, focused on public perceptions of privacy after Edward Snowden leaked documents disclosing widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency.

“Americans’ lack of confidence in core communications channels tracks closely with how much they have heard about government surveillance programs,” the survey said.

Pew’s survey found 91 percent of adults either agreed or strongly agreed that consumers have lost control over their personal information, while 88 percent of adults agreed or strongly agreed that it would be “very difficult to remove inaccurate information about them online.”

Trust in the government doesn’t fare much better – 80 percent of adults said Americans should be concerned about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and internet communications.

“Respondents felt like there was this cloud of uncertainty hanging over how their data is being used,” said Mary Madden, a senior researcher with Pew’s Internet Project.

Despite their concern about the government’s access to their data, Americans said they think the same government could do more to regulate how advertisers use their personal information. Only 34 percent of those surveyed said the government should not get more involved.

And it’s not just older generations who are worried about their privacy – 32 percent of respondents 18 to 29 years old said they had asked someone to correct or remove information about them online.

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