Government Technology

Survey Raises Consumer Online Privacy Awareness



January 28, 2009 By

Consumer Policy Solutions yesterday released a new survey examining consumer awareness and understanding of online privacy. Because today is Data Privacy Day, this is an especially timely survey intended to help raise consumer awareness of privacy issues and give consumers the knowledge and tools needed for the privacy they desire online. Many consumers are not fully aware of the implications of their online activity and the "virtual breadcrumbs" they inadvertently leave behind when roaming from site to site.

This survey, which follows closely on the heels of a Consumer Policy Solutions survey released in May that revealed protecting personal privacy is a top consumer concern, takes a closer look at consumers understanding of online privacy. Many respondents were unaware of the tracking, collecting and sharing of information that occurs as a result of online activities.

"Consumers care about protecting their privacy on the Internet, but they do not necessarily know how to protect themselves nor do they understand how the process works," said Debra Berlyn, president of Consumer Policy Solutions. "Today is a great day to raise awareness of what the issues are for consumers. I think our survey serves as a good gauge of how consumers view their privacy online."

In response to the findings of the survey, Consumer Policy Solutions is launching a Web site dedicated to educating and informing consumers about online privacy issues.

The survey found that:

Consumers think they are knowledgeable about online privacy, but many are unaware of how their activity and behaviors can be followed and collected online.

  • 70 percent of Internet users say they are very or fairly knowledgeable about how to protect their personal privacy online.
  • 42 percent are unsure whether their online activity is tracked and recorded by companies for commercial purposes.
  • 12 percent believe that tracking by companies for commercial purposes does not happen at all.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Consumers do not always read privacy policies.

  • 32 percent say they have read their ISP privacy policy closely.
  • 30 percent have read online retailers' privacy policies closely.
  • 18 percent have read search engine privacy policies closely.

Parents know less than they think about their children's privacy online when it comes to sites tracking their children's online activity.

  • 69 percent of parents say they are very or fairly knowledgeable about how to protect their children's privacy online, but 29 percent are not even sure whether the websites their children use have privacy policies and just 31percent have read the privacy policies of the websites their children visit closely.
  • 56 percent are unsure whether children's online activity can be tracked by companies for commercial purposes.


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