U.S. consumers have serious privacy concerns about the ways in which their data is used by Internet companies and social media platforms, according to a personal internet data survey from Recon Analytics. Collection of this data and behaviors amounts to consumers acting as ‘the product’ for Internet giants like Facebook and Google.

The survey is based on input by more than 1,000 consumers. “The all-encompassing surveillance and storage of personal data by internet companies with limited or no regulatory or legal checks and balances worries most Americans, rightfully so, especially when the attitudes of many of these companies’ senior leaders are taken into account,” said a piece about the survey, which was posted in the “Roger’s Recon” section of the site.

The piece includes comments from Eric Schmidt (from 2009, when he was CEO of Google) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (in 2010) that portray a dismissive attitude toward privacy and a condescending attitude toward people who use the platforms. It is unclear if these comments are taken out of context or accurately represent the two executives’ current attitudes. Schmidt now is Executive Chairman of Google parent of Alphabet.

In any case, the dynamic that Entner describes is that these companies feel they own consumer data and can use it as they see fit. Consumers, naturally, object to this. “Over half of Americans – 55% – would use [a company’s] products and services more if they would give consumers greater control over their personal information,” the post says. “This would require a radical change in thinking by these companies in that they have to depart from the mindset that they own the consumer data they collect. They might have a license to use it, the same way that consumers have a license to use a search engine or a software product, but fundamentally it is an equal exchange.”

The current relationship between consumers and Internet/social media companies indeed is bound to change, according to Entner. “This paradigm won’t last forever so these ‘disruptors’ must prepare for when regulators come to disrupt them.”

Here are key findings from the survey:

  • An overwhelming majority of consumers, 73%, are concerned about how their personal data is being collected and used by internet companies.
  • Almost 77% would like more transparency on the ads being targeted to them based on the personal data the internet companies collect.
  • Among those surveyed, there is a shared feeling of uncertainty and insecurity over how much internet companies and platforms know about each of us and what they’re doing with that information.
    More than 70% of respondents are unaware of tools they can use to control or limit the usage of their personal data.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents, 29%, did not know that many of the “free” online services they use are paid for via targeted advertising made possible by the tracking and collecting of their personal data.
  • Almost half of the respondents are aware that Facebook and Google track their personal data even when they are not actively using their services.
  • A vast majority of those surveyed, 77%, support regulations that would require Google, Facebook and other online platforms to be more transparent about how and what personal data they collect from consumers.
  • An even greater majority, 82%, are in favor of legally requiring internet companies to disclose what information they collect and to whom they sell it.

Image courtesy of flickr user Merrill College of Journalism Press Releases.