The internet can make our private lives public but most people don’t care
When I started blogging I was quite sure I wouldn’t be posting anything personal on the internet. What I didn’t bargain for was the comments I made on other blogs. Before I knew it I found myself chattering away on various blogs, inadvertently revealing myself in bits and pieces. Bits and pieces? I think I must have left my biography out there on the internet!
Strangely, I am not as worried as I should be even though I know that it’s not just my blogger friends whom I am talking to but a host of strangers…lurkers?
Well, I am not alone. A survey says that most internet users today (60 percent) are not really concerned about the amount of information they leave online and most of those who do worry (38 percent) do not take serious steps to limit it. Overall, almost 80 percent of internet users don’t try too hard to limit the information they leave online, even if some of them worry about it.
And this tendency (to be more open on the net) is increasing over the years.
This survey was done in the United States about six months ago amongst 1,623 internet users and my feeling is that perhaps users in India would be more cautious…but I think the trend here is clear to see…as time goes by internet users are becoming less cautious about revealing themselves…and newer platforms are springing up everyday which tempt users to do so.
First lets take those who don’t worry about the amount of personal information available about them online – the 60 percent.
Out of this group, 43 percent say they do nothing to limit the amount of personal information available about them online. The other 17 percent say that while they don’t worry, they do “limit” the amount of personal information they give out. This group as a whole “actively uploads content.”
Now lets take those who do worry about the personal information about them available online – the 38 percent.
If we break this group up we get 18 percent who say they worry but don’t do anything to limit the information they give out. Only about 21 percent try to “proactively limit” the amount of personal information they upload.
So overall if we look at internet users, less than a quarter actually try to limit the information they give out on the internet. Well, it follows that very few people would actually monitor their online presence with any regularity…in fact of those who do, only 3 percent say they do it on a regular basis and 22 percent say they do it “every once in a while.” The rest have done it a couple of times, that’s all.
So if this survey is accurate, it means that almost 80 percent of internet users don’t try take any serious steps to “limit” information available about them on the internet. And therefore it’s not surprising that not many of us try to find out how much information is out there about ourselves.
Out of those who did search for their digital footprint (47 percent of internet users), a quarter (21 percent) of the self-searchers were surprised at the amount of information available about them online while 62 percent expected to find what they did. But 13 percent felt surprised that there wasn’t more information available about them online.
However, others are trying to find out something about you! 53 percent of internet users look for information about others…their friends, relatives or romantic interests!
- 9 percent of online adults have checked out someone they are dating. More women than men do this.
- 11 percent have done it to check out prospective employees.
- 19 percent have searched for information about co-workers, professional colleagues or business competitors.
- However a large proportion of those (36 percent) who search for information about others do it to locate someone from their past.
Well, that does give one an eerie feeling doesn’t it…to know that once you put something out there on the net, it is completely out of your control. And it will be available there for years afterwards! A New York Times article says that if these trends are anything to go by “a time will come when nothing that is said online will be treated as embarrassing because we will have become accustomed to everyone disclosing everything.”
And with sites like Spokeo.com, well things have got easier for those who want to spy on their friends! This site “searches your friends’ blogs and photos across 22 social networks so you don’t have to visit hundreds of websites one by one!”
No privacy anymore? Sure, strangers may not come up to me and tell me they know what my favourite colour is or what side of the bed I prefer or what I think of when I wake up…but well, they can easily find out. I wonder if that makes you feel as strange as it does me.