Are Millennials okay with the collection and use of their data online because they grew up with the internet?

In an effort to help inform policymakers about the views of Americans across generations on internet privacy, the Internet Innovation Alliance, in partnership with Icon Talks, the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), and the Millennial Action Project, commissioned a national study of U.S. consumers who have witnessed a steady stream of online privacy abuses, data misuses, and security breaches in recent years. The survey examined the concerns of U.S. adults—overall and separated by age group, as well as other demographics—regarding the collection and use of personal data and location information by tech and social media companies, including tailoring the online experience, the potential for their personal financial information to be hacked from online tech and social media companies, and the need for a single, national policy addressing consumer data privacy.

Download: “Concerns About Online Data Privacy Span Generations” IIA white paper pdf.

Download: “Consumer Data Privacy Concerns” Civic Science report pdf.

In conjunction with the release of the white paper and study, IIA held a teleconference that included a presentation by IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and analysis of the poll findings by CivicScience Founder and CEO John Dick, with a special focus on the privacy views of Millennials. These are Congressman Boucher’s opening remarks:

Good morning and thanks for joining our call today as we reveal key findings from a large national survey of attitudes among millennials and other demographics regarding the collection and use of their data and the need for online privacy protection, which the Internet Innovation Alliance commissioned in April of this year.

I’m Rick Boucher, former member of Congress, and honorary chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance.

I’m joined on the call by John Dick, the founder and CEO of CivicScience, the national survey firm we commissioned to conduct the poll. Joining the Internet Innovation Alliance in commissioning the survey were The Millennial Action Project, Icon Talks, and the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). The survey covered approximately 8000 US adults, balanced by demography and geography.

CivicScience provides research and data services to numerous Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations, including both large internet edge providers and broadband providers.

During today’s call, I’ll take a few minutes to highlight the most significant findings from the survey. Then John Dick and I will be glad to answer your questions regarding the survey results.

Millennials are the first digital natives, a generation truly shaped by the internet. Those born between 1981 and 1996, to use a common definition, grew up with the internet at home, at school and at work. Fittingly, the Millennial generation was punctuated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which cleared the way for two decades of extraordinary investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

But we wanted to know whether their take on online privacy is different from that of their elders.

We thought it important to understand what millennials think of the technology that has so deeply marked and shaped their lives. In particular, do they think more privacy protections are needed or do they simply accept some modern practices that would appall earlier generations?

According to the survey results, the answer is clear: Millennials value their online privacy highly, are worried about the security of their personal data, and are concerned that companies that hold their personal information are not doing enough to protect it.

The results show a broad consensus. Fully 74% of adults surveyed are concerned about hackers stealing their personal and financial data, and 76% do not want their online data and location information used for commercial purposes.

For millennials, the results are similar:

*67% are worried about hacking of their personal financial information from online and social media companies, and three out of four millennials are concerned with how technology and social media companies use their data and location information.

*69% of millennials do not want their online data used to make searches, advertising or content more relevant.

*Across the American population, 64% of millennials and 77% of people over the age of 55 support a single nationwide data privacy law for the protection of Internet users. Only 10% of millennials disagree. Overall, the survey showed that 72% of adults support a national privacy protection law. In today’s fractured political environment, it’s rare to find that type of consensus on any issue.

These trends are common across different demographic groups of internet users, rural and urban, and internet users of different races, all of whom share similar attitudes and perform similar functions online.

In short, the assumption, often glibly made by those who have not deeply studied the issue, that millennials are not very concerned about online privacy because they grew up with the internet is clearly false.

And from the survey results a policy implication is clear: Congress should pass a law containing one uniform comprehensive standard for data privacy applicable nationwide and encompassing all companies within the internet ecosystem from the content providing edge to last mile internet service providers.

Every election cycle, we seem to hear the question, “Will millennials turn out to vote?” On the issue of online privacy, Congress has a golden opportunity to show that it is listening to the concerns of millennials by adopting this year privacy legislation that imposes obligations on every company that collects online data. Doing so would be a positive step in ensuring that the answer to the recurring question is a resounding yes.”

Listen to the “Concerns About Online Data Privacy Span Generations” teleconference to learn more.