Survey: 70% Want to Control Who Sees Their Digital Location

New online privacy and security survey data out from Pew today are pretty striking. I’ve written up the survey in some detail over at Marketing Land.

Here are a few noteworthy data points:

  • 86% of US internet users “have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints”
  • 59% believe it’s not possible to be completely anonymous online
  • 68% said that current laws are not strong enough to protect online privacy
  • 36% reported not using a website because it required their real name/identity (see Facebook)

Below are a few additional findings worth stressing: 70% of users wanted to “authorize” who accessed their location information. The US FTC and California consider geolocation to be a form of sensitive personal information worthy of greater protection. However, thus far, US courts in their various decisions have mostly considered it to be public information (e.g., movements being tracked).

Pew privacy

The second graphic below shows that people online are trying to avoid “hackers and criminals,” acquaintances, family members and employers. Only a very small percentage are trying to avoid “the government” or “law enforcement.” It’s worth noting that this survey was conducted after the NSA revelations.

pew: avoiding advertisers

Nearly 30% of respondents, which are supposed to be a representative sample of the US adult online population, said they were actively trying to avoid “advertisers.” Another group, which may overlap somewhat with the¬† advertiser-avoiders were trying to avoid “companies who ran the website you visited.”

When it comes to location data people don’t seem to be saying “I don’t want anyone to know where I am.” Instead they appear to be saying, “I want to control who knows where I am.” Thus opt-in location-based marketing would, I infer, be acceptable to this group. Indeed, when users are presented with tangible rewards or benefits for sharing location they generally agree.

You can access the full survey results here. But what do you think of these findings and their implications for online and mobile marketing?

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4 Responses to “Survey: 70% Want to Control Who Sees Their Digital Location”

  1. ben says at

    in the parallel utopian world of filling out research surveys, everyone would want control of everything right? Frankly given the way that the question was asked, I think the bigger story here is that nearly half of the people surveyed don’t really seem to care an awful lot about who is authorized to access their location. ūüôā I think these sort of questions should always include an everyday benchmark for comparison like “how much do you care that only you and those you authorize should have access to your phone number or home address”… that may put it in a bit better perspective IMO… just sayin’ ¬†

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    As I point out at the bottom, people will often share location in exchange for some tangible benefit. It’s very “situational.”

    Online marketers tend to dismiss such findings (this is just one of many surveys that are consistent about privacy concerns). And while the methodology and question framing can be critiqued it’s wrong to simply say that these findings don’t matter or reveal anything.

  3. ben says at

    yeah I saw that previous tidbit wrt what folks were willing to pay to share location from a few months back, that was awesome stuff. ¬†I wholly agree that the findings ‘mean’ something… I am just pointing out alternative conclusions as to what they may mean and the way I look at it, surveys wrt privacy are always going to skew toward a disconnected “ideal”, so I mentally factor that in. ie If you were to ask me in a survey would I ever share the location of my kids whereabouts with strangers… of course I’d respond no, but then I’d turn around and freely tell strangers often where they go to school, openly walk to and from school IN PUBLIC, buy (and sell) the school gear that my kids proudly wear everywhere announcing where they’ll be everyday from 8-3, etc. Its not that I am full of sh*t when I fill out the survey its just that the survey is not doing a great job of connecting to a complex reality in a meaningful way, ¬†So I was just trying to point out another reading of the leaves that could paint a different picture. ¬†


  4. Greg says at

    I understand and agree that the “facts on the ground” are more complex then are often reflected in surveys. However digital marketers¬†too often tend to dismiss these things and rationalize them as being superficial

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    […] 70% Want to Control Who Sees Their Digital Location¬†(Screenwerk) A new online privacy and security survey from Pew found that 70% of users wanted to […]

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