A good 36 percent said they have searched the Web for someone with whom
they've lost touch, and 9 percent have dug up information on someone they
At the same time, 60 percent said they are not worried about how much
information about them is on the Internet.
The findings, published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, reflect
how people are sharing more and more of their lives on the Internet, as well
as how Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace are
encouraging users to post their home videos, photographs and personal
profiles online, including data ranging from their favorite movies to their
cell phone number.
The increasing amount of personal information online has drawn concern among
privacy advocates, who worry about how it could be used and who controls it.
Most recently, they decried a new Facebook advertising program that
broadcasted its users' online purchases and other online actions to their
friends and network. In response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized
and gave users the ability to permanently shut off the program.
But the Pew report suggested that most Internet users are not concerned
about their personal information online. The study found that 61 percent
have not felt compelled to limit it, while 38 percent have taken steps to
Among adults who have a visible social-networking profile, 60 percent said
that anyone who happens upon it can see it, and 38 percent said they
restrict access to their friends, the report said.
"People aren't being super cautious about what they're doing or presenting
online," said Mary Madden, co-author of the report and a senior research
specialist with Pew.
The report also found that 47 percent of Internet users have searched for
themselves online, up from 22 percent in 2002. And 53 percent, mostly those
under the age of 50, have looked up an acquaintance on the Web.
Women were slightly more likely than men to have researched someone they
were dating or someone they were about to meet. More men than women, on the
other hand, said they have looked up friends, someone from their past or a
colleague or competitor.
In light of recent recommendations that job hunters not post photographs or
personal information that could hurt their chances with employers, 11
percent said they have searched online for someone they were about to hire
or work with.