Forget Big Brother – it’s Big Business that may be watching you.
The annual study of the impact of the Internet on Americans conducted by USC Annenberg’s Center for the Digital Future found that almost half of Internet users age 16 and older – 48 percent – are worried about companies monitoring their actions on the Internet.
By comparison, the Digital Future Study found that only 38 percent of Internet users age 16 and older are concerned about the government checking what they do online.
“Many of us are worried that the Big Brother in our lives is actually Big Business,” said Jeffrey Cole, the center’s director.
“Internet users have major concerns about corporate intrusion – and who can blame them?” Cole said. “Considering the recent revelations about covert surveillance of personal behavior through GPS tracking and other related issues, we believe that user concerns about the involvement – some would say encroachment – of companies into the lives of Internet users represent a significant issue.”
The responses are among more than 180 issues explored by the Digital Future Project, which completed its 10th study of the digital realm – the longest continuing study of its kind and the first to develop a longitudinal survey of the views and behavior of Internet users and non-users.
Other questions in the 2011 study explored users’ views about personal expression online on matters concerning politics and government:
• Among Internet users age 16 and older, 33 percent said that it is safe to voice their views about politics online. However, 36 percent of users do not think it is safe to say whatever one thinks about politics while online.
• A much larger percentage – 70 percent – believe that people should be free on the Internet to criticize their government while online.
• And more than half of users – 55 percent – agreed with the concept that people should be able to express their ideas on the Internet, even if those ideas are extreme.
The Center for the Digital Future telephone and web-based survey of 1,926 Americans age 12 and older was conducted between April and August 2010 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.