Full access to Entrepreneur for $5

Despite Social Media's Popularity, Most Americans Don't Want to Give Up Private Data

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a new report on privacy, the Pew Research Center explores the tricky balance between the desire to control our personal data and our love of convenience and free stuff.

2nix Studio | Shutterstock

Pew surveyed more than 450 U.S. adults last winter, asking them whether they'd be comfortable handing over their information in six separate situations, ranging from workplace surveillance to having their driving monitored by a car-insurance company. The takeaway? We're conflicted -- 17 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t take any of the deals described, and only 4 percent say they would accept all of the deals -- and our willingness to swap data for value depends on the situation.

Related: The Psychology Behind Why We Like, Share and Comment on Facebook (Infographic)

Of the six outlined scenarios, respondents were uncomfortable with the privacy tradeoffs required to access free social media. In that scenario, Pew outlined a social-media site -- a clear Facebook stand in -- which gives users free access in exchange for the ability to sell them ads using their personal data. Only a third of respondents thought this tradeoff was "acceptable," 15 percent said it depended on the situation, and 51 percent found the tradeoff "unacceptable."

To be fair, much of this is generational -- around 40 percent of those under age 50 say this deal would be acceptable, compared with nearly a quarter of those ages 50 and above, and one expects that percentage would only go up with younger demographics.

Still, it's an interesting statistic that illustrates that social networks, for many of us, have become a part of daily life but still have the power to make us deeply uncomfortable.

Wrote one respondent, “Although I understand this scenario is already standard practice, it uses information collected about me in a manner not for my benefit, without my consent."

Related: How Facebook 'Likes' Could Be Used to Make Personality-Based Hiring Decisions

Laura Entis

Written By

Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.