THE BLOG
07/31/2014 11:23 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2014

Does Online Privacy Exist on Social Networks? 57 Percent Don't Think So

Almost three-fourths of Americans worry about how much personal information is available online, and more than half feel like they can't trust social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep their personal information, buying habits, and political beliefs confidential, according to new poll data we just released via an infographic.

The data was collected through a survey of 1,007 Americans over the age of 18, and the survey was commissioned by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark of craigconnects and craigslist.

According to the survey, mistrust of websites and social media and concerns about privacy rise as Americans get older. People over 65 expressed the least trust in social media, and were most certain their data was being sold. It was this demographic who felt most strongly that privacy laws need to be strengthened.

People over 65 also expressed concern at roughly twice the rate of poll respondents under 35.

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The data shows very clearly that Americans feel manipulated and exposed by the websites they frequent. While that may not stop them from using Facebook and Twitter, or other websites, they are clearly calling for more safeguards so their personal data doesn't get sold or used for targeted marketing purposes so easily.

At the top of the list of concerns are tracking cookies. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they were concerned about cookies being placed on their computers without their knowledge, and 36 percent said they knew for a fact that this had happened to them.

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It's ironic that people are so concerned about their online privacy, yet the majority of Americans don't realize how much information they are giving away when they sign up for these sites. And part of the reason they don't realize, is because they're not reading the entirety of these site's terms of service (TOS).

The poll suggested that many Americans do not think it is their responsibility to set limits on their privacy. While 60 percent of respondents either thought current privacy laws were too weak or weren't sure, a similar number, 66 percent said they either skim through a website's terms of service (TOS) before agreeing, or do not read the terms of service at all.

"On one hand, Americans are quite concerned about their online privacy, but on the other hand the majority of Americans are using websites and social media platforms without reading very much of the TOS," said Stefan Hankin, Founder of polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies. "That's a problem."

And Stefan is right, it is a problem. It's time that Internet users both take responsibility for the information that's being put online, as well as call for the websites and social media platforms that we're using to protect our information.

"This is a big deal because people put a lot of stuff out there, sometimes inadvertently. We all need to look at this issue," said Craig Newmark of craigconnects and founder of craigslist.

This is the second series of data from the poll to be released. Last month, we released an infographic about online harassment, which exposed that about half of Americans under 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, or know someone who has.

Full data from the Online Privacy poll can be found at http://www.onlineprivacydata.org