How public opinion polls define and circumscribe online privacy

  • Kim Sheehan


The advent of new communications technologies and the integration of such technologies into individuals’ lives have resulted in major changes to society. Responding to such privacy concerns is of key interest to legislators, policy–makers, and business leaders as these groups seek to balance consumer privacy needs with the realities of this new society. These groups, and others, use public opinion polls and surveys to measure the current climate of opinion among citizens. This study examines the language of 43 opinion polls and surveys dealing with privacy and the Internet to understand how these polls define and assess online privacy. Results suggest that polls treat the complex construction of privacy in an overly simplistic way. Additionally, pollsters present many poll questions in a way that may lead survey respondents to express stronger negative feelings about privacy than really exist.
How to Cite
Sheehan, K. (2004). How public opinion polls define and circumscribe online privacy. First Monday, 9(7).