Study: Most Americans Aren’t Vigilant in Monitoring Their Digital Footprints

A recent Pew Research Center study looked into how Americans view digital privacy and how they are, or are not, managing their reputations online.

Do you monitor your online reputation? Do Americans even care about their digital footprints?

These were questions asked in a recent Pew Research Center study published last week. According to the findings, Americans do care about their online privacy and reputations, with 61 percent saying they want to do more to protect personal information online, but only a about a quarter believe it is possible to be anonymous online. And even fewer actively monitor what others say about them on the web: Only 6 percent have set up automatic alerts to notify them when their name is mentioned somewhere online.

Most Americans, 87 percent, are at least “a little” aware that the “the government is collecting information about telephone calls, emails, and other online communications as part of efforts to monitor terrorist activity,” for example, and 91 percent agree or strongly agree that consumers no longer have control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies.

Many respondents understood that their digital identity can affect their reputation. About half reported that they expect people they meet will search for information about them on the internet. People under 50 and those with higher levels of education and income are more likely to search their own name in a search engine.

Only a relative few respondents reported negative repercussions stemming from their digital identities, with 11 percent saying they’ve had a bad experience because of embarrassing information posted about them online and 16 percent saying they’ve asked someone to remove or correct information about them.

The report noted that workplace policies may be affecting what people choose to (or not to) disclose online. For example, nearly a quarter of employed adults reported their employers have rules about how employees can present themselves online, and 11 percent reported that are required to promote themselves online via social media or other tools as part of their jobs.

A member of the New York City Bar Association (City Bar) recently discovered the potential effects of personal statements made on social media. Last week, attorney Andrew Barovick resigned his position as chairman of the association’s Medical Malpractice Committee after tweeting what many considered a racist comment about a black Republican candidate for New York lieutenant governor.

After Christopher Moss lost his election bid, Barovick tweeted that Moss could now be a “spokesmodel for Cream of Wheat or Uncle Ben’s Rice.”

While City Bar’s executive director would not comment on whether Barovick was asked to resign, the New York lawyer said in his resignation letter that he “made a grave mistake by attempting to use humor to personally convey my frustration with” the state Republican Party.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!