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America: e-deep in data to mine

June 09, 2013

Use of cell phones, computers and other technologies has exploded in recent years, having a profound impact on American life and exponentially increasing the data trail we each leave on the servers of major technology companies and in the cloud.

Since last week, the revelation of an NSA data mining program called PRISM has been all over the news. The big story: the NSA (and their British counterparts) have direct access to user data from major US technology companies including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google. The news has prompted a wide range of reactions, including renewed debate about intelligence oversight, moves to teach consumers how to shield and encrypt their information and the flight from the US of the government contractor who released the NSA documents. Here at Face the Facts USA, it's prompted us to look at exactly how deep the affected technologies are integrated into our lives.

Its a simple fact: Advances in technology have had a profound effect on everyday life for Americans, and most of us now leave an information-rich data trail behind us.

Use of cell phones, computers and other technologies has exploded over the past two decades. In 1990, 5.3 million Americans owned cell phones. By 2010 that number jumped to 302.9 million almost one for every U.S. resident.

In 1989, 15 percent of Americans had a computer in their home. By 2010, 77 percent could say the same, and many of them had multiple computers. Some Americans who dont own a computer access the Internet via their smartphones. Only about 1 in 5 American adults do not use the Internet.

And increasingly, were using our computers to shop. E-commerce grew from 0.6 percent of retail sales in 1999 to 5.1 percent by mid-2012. Want to guess what we like most to buy online? More e-stuff: computers, software, electronics - all of which puts more of our information into the cloud and on to the servers of technology companies.

There are more details in our infographic. What Do Others Say has additional takes on technologys impact.Tell us what you think in the discussion below. Is all this technology in our lives a good thing? Are you worried about the data trail you leave