Digital Illiteracy [CHART]

Chart: Digital Illiteracy

A Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept.

While a majority of U.S. adults can correctly answer questions about phishing scams or website cookies, other items are more challenging.

For example, just 28% of adults can identify an example of two-factor authentication – one of the most important ways experts say people can protect their personal information on sensitive accounts.

Additionally, about one-quarter of Americans (24%) know that private browsing only hides browser history from other users of that computer, while roughly half (49%) say they are unsure what private browsing does.

Americans’ understanding of these topics varies drastically across the 10 questions presented in the Center’s survey. To begin with, only three questions were answered correctly by a majority of adults.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults (67%) know that phishing scams can occur across multiple platforms, including email, text messages, social media or websites. Some 63% of Americans understand that cookies are text files that allow websites to track users’ site visits and activities.

Similarly, 59% know that advertising is the largest source of revenue for most social media sites, rather than things such as exclusive licensing deals (4%) or corporate consulting (2%).

Additionally, 48% of adults correctly answered that a privacy policy is a contract between websites and users regarding how their data will be used, while 45% know that net neutrality refers to the principle that internet service providers should treat all traffic on their networks equally.

Other concepts in the survey are far less familiar to the public.

Only three-in-ten adults correctly answered that starting a URL with “https://” means that the information entered on that site is encrypted (30%). A similar share (28%) accurately identified an example of two-factor authentication.

A somewhat smaller share – 24% of Americans – is aware that “private browsing” or “incognito mode” only hides online activity from other individuals using the same computer. (It does not mean that the user’s activities are masked and not being captured by the websites, the internet provider, or an employer if the browsing is being done on a work computer.) Read the rest at Pew Research.