December 21st, 2007

What do you know…

More and more people are Googling themselves — but most still don’t realize just how much of their personal information can be found online. According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 47% of internet users have searched their own name online, up from about 20% last year. But what was really intriguing was that 60 percent of internet users say they are not worried about how much of their data is available on the web. According to Pew, it could be that they are simply unaware.

*Roughly one third of internet users say the following pieces of information are available online: their email address, home address, home phone number or their employer.
*One quarter of internet users say a photo, names of groups they belong to, or things they have written that have their name on it appear online.
*Few internet users say their political affiliation, cell phone number, or video appear online.

As Fard JohnMar points out in a recent post, this ignorance should cause some people in the health industry to take pause — especially as more online tools become available for doctors and patients alike to share intensely personal information such as diagnoses, test results, medical histories and other health data.

The so-called Health 2.0 movement seems to be gaining momentum (earlier this week, Matthew Holt pointed out a great list of 38 sites that can help you improve your health) but for these tools to really take off, people will have to be confident that their personal information is secure — and in their control.

3 Responses to “What do you know…”

  1. Antoine Clarke says

    OK. You want the frightening bit? The assumption of privacy is becoming so eroded that within a few years (maybe months) a lot of people won’t mind sharing private information online they wouldn’t dream of allowing their physicians to share with the government, insurers or other businesses.

    Not that I’m in favor of this trend, mind you. Big Brother is a TV show, not a political entity.

  2. Marc says

    Agreed. Talking to some friends of mine in academia, I’ve heard about students who are willing to share personal information to marketers and other organizations without any regard to how it will be used, often in exchange for a slice of pizza.

  3. Adriana says

    I see an entirely different trend. The next generation has a different notion of privacy and in many respects more privacy aware. They consider things like advertising and marketing more intrusive, unlike the ‘digital immigrants’ who see it as necessarily evil or just part of the landscape.

    The issue is that information that is considered private now may not be so to the students. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about privacy. It remains to be seen what happens once people have a real option to protect their privacy, at the moment, their data belongs to someone else, if not by virtue of law, then by virtue of possession and storage.

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