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When It Comes To Online Privacy, Americans Want To Have Their Cake And Eat It, Too

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Americans want more online privacy, but still give it up readily to some sites, particularly social media, suggests a new poll by the Pew Research Center

Although 91 percent of adults surveyed felt that they no longer have control over their personal information online, 55 percent strongly agreed to the statement: "I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free."

This almost mirrors a recent social experiment where people accepted a free snack in exchange for their private information. In that experiment, 380 people traded private details about themselves for cookies decorated with logos of social media networks.

In the Pew report, a survey asked 607 people about online privacy. The study found that 88 percent of Americans agreed that if there was inaccurate information posted about them online that it would be difficult to remove.

The majority of those using social media (80 percent) also displayed concern about how social media sites give information to third parties, such as advertisers. This concern was even generally stronger than worries about the government accessing their private information.

However, people are still signing up for social networks in droves. Not only did more than half of participants mention that they would give out private information for free services, but 36 percent also said they like how those personal details make those services better and more efficient.

Part of the problem is that most people feel married to these services, such as social networks and emails. They've used these services for years and don't want to give them up. There's also a perception that people can do nothing about privacy concerns.

"The reason is often they don't have real choice," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It's not like picking up the newspaper and realizing ice cream has too many calories and you can start eating frozen yogurt, information that people can act on."

Perhaps that's why many Americans feel the government should more strongly regulate online privacy. About 65 percent stated they wanted to do more to protect their personal information, with about the same percentage wanting the government to do more.

Most of those polled also feel that online anonymity is impossible.

"Just 24% of adults 'agree' or strongly agree' with the statement: 'It is easy for me to be anonymous when I am online,'" says the Pew research.

[Photo Credit: Free Images]

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