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Pew: Most Are Not Concerned About Wealth Of Personal Data Online; This Is A Problem

A new report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project earlier thisegosurf.jpg week reveals that people are “egosurfing” more often and use search engines when trying to learn about others.  According to Pew’s research, titled “Digital Footprints”:

“47% of Internet users have searched for information about themselves online, up from just 22% five years ago. However, few monitor their online presence with great regularity. Just 3% of self-searchers report that they make a regular habit of it and 74% have checked up on their digital footprints only once or twice.”

However, while people are searching for content about themselves, they are also unconcerned that an increasing amount of personal information is appearing online.  According to Pew:

“Most internet users are unconcerned about the extent of the data available about them online . . . ‘60% of internet users say they are not worried about [it].’”  (However, this may be because they are not aware much of this information is floating around on the Internet.)

This is concerning, especially as people continue to put increasing amounts of personal health data online.  This trend, coupled with increasingly ubiquitous and powerful Internet applications like Facebook, should give privacy advocates and others in the health industry some pause.  As we saw with the Facebook “Beacon” incident people are not always aware of how their information will be accessed and used by their peers and others.  While openness and collaboration is good, health is a special case.  As health communicators we’ve got to understand not only how online technologies are moving forward, but their inherent risks – especially as they relate to medical/health privacy.  

To learn more about Pew's report, please click here.  

Image Source: Houston  


2 Comments/Trackbacks

Storing personal medical information online simply makes sense in today's world. Privacy is obviously a very important issue that will have to be worked out, but as people have more choice to go outside their network, doctors must be able to quickly access their patients records.

I think that as long as "nothing happens to you personally" people will not care about their information being online. Medical or not medical.

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