Privacy Goes Mainstream: People Take Action As Privacy Risks Increase

Filed under Privacy Research on

Most people say they are concerned with online privacy, but do they care enough to actually take action? After polling American adults we found the number of people now taking action is large — mainstream large. We surveyed thousands of random US adults in October 2016 and again in May 2017, asking them:

“Which privacy settings do you adjust on your devices?”

(A subset of the answers shown to respondents)

I use a VPN or proxy my connections to hide my online activity

October 2016 = 10.5% (+/-1.7%)
May 2017 = 11.6% (+/-1.3%)

I install browser add-ons or apps to block web trackers

October 2016 = 20.7% (+/-2.3%)
May 2017 = 21.9% (+/-1.7%)

I use a password manager to set and keep secure passwords

October 2016 = 26.1% (+/-2.5%)
May 2017 = 29.5% (+/-1.8%)

I change my browser’s “Do Not Track” setting to ask websites not to track me

October 2016 = 33.1% (+/-2.7%)
May 2017 = 33.2% (+/-1.9%)


Although the percentages vary according to technical complexity, each of the results shows a significant number of people proactively defending their right to privacy online. For example, one in five respondents try to block the ubiquitous trackers that follow us around the web. This is more notable when we remember that the surveys were aimed at random American adults rather than a purely technical audience.

Also worth noting is that roughly a third of those surveyed have turned on the “Do Not Track” setting in their web browsers. In other words, they are so concerned about privacy that they went looking through their browser settings, seeking out an option that might help them be tracked less. Unfortunately, since this browser setting is voluntary for websites to implement, it has limited effectiveness with companies such as Google and Facebook not respecting it.

If you really do not want to be tracked by web sites, you need to use services that don’t track you by default like DuckDuckGo for search. However, what it shows is that the desire to not be tracked isn’t just talk — these are real people taking real privacy actions in a mainstream way.


These results are based on the polling of a random sample of 1,201 (October 2016) and 2,371 (May 2017) American adults (18+) via SurveyMonkey’s “Audience” platform, which ensures the demographic make-up of respondents is representative of the U.S. population. Survey respondents were paid and a confidence level of 95% was used.

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Dax the duck

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Privacy Goes Mainstream: People Take Action As Privacy Risks Increase
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