The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released a new report entitled Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency. The result of telephone and on-line surveys, it provides some new data on how much information people share on-line and how aware they are of the information that's out there.
The research found that 47% of internet users have done searches to see what's online about them, up from 22% just five years ago. Of those, 62% found what they expected, 21% found more than they expected, and 13% "reacted with disbelief at how little" the internet contained on them.
Most people were not concerned about the amount of information available, which is not surprising given that only 4% reported having problems with embarrassing or inaccurate data.
The survey divided the respondents into four categories:
- Confident Creatives (17%) say they do not worry about the availability of their online data, and actively upload content, but still take steps to limit their personal information. There are lots of young people in this group.
- Concerned and Careful (21%) fret about the personal information available aboutthem online and take steps to proactively limit their own online data.
- Worried by the Wayside (18%) do not actively limit their online information but worry about in nonetheless.
- Unfazed and Inactive (43%)neither worry about their personal information nor limit the amount of information that can be found out about them online.
Another interesting finding was that 18% of college graduates reported that their employer expected them to maintain an on-line identity, although this could be as simple as posting a photo or name on the corporate web site. People in education and real estate were most likely to fall into this category, although it also included such occupations as musicians, minister and lawyers. However, this group only slightly more likely than others to create a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook. (25% vs. 20%).
Teens were more likely to have an on-line profile (55%) but less likely to make it visible to the general public (40% for teens vs. 60% for adults). The report speculates that teens are listening to the cautions from their parents, although Nick Carr speculates that adults just live boring lives and thus have less to hide.