How much do social and mobile service providers know about you? What are they doing with your personal information? If you're worried, you're not alone. A Harris Interactive survey commmissioned by TRUSTe, which helps its clients manage customer privacy, shows that 60% of adults surveyed are more concerned about their online privacy now than they were a year ago.
The study, conducted between May 31 and June 6, 2012, included 1,033 adults and 554 smartphone users in the United States aged 18 or older.
Ninety-four percent of respondants said that privacy was an important issue, and 58% said they ‘do not like’ online behavioral advertising.
Consumers are realizing that the first line of protection when it comes to privacy online is the individual. Services, websites and applications are increasingly viewed with skepticism when it comes to protecting user data, and consumers are taking it upon themselves to hide their information online. Near 69% of respondants said they trusted themselves the most to protect their personally identifiable information (PII) online. Of those surveyed, 76% said that they did not allow companies to share their personal information (up from 67% in 2011) and 90% said they used browser controls to protect privacy by deleting cookies, opting into “Do Not Track” options or using the “incognito” mode.
Users are wise to take their privacy into their own hands. Even the most well-intentioned services online can have privacy leaks or breaches, including stolen passwords or information that could lead to identity fraud. Companies may not follow industry-standard practices that protect user information, resulting in mishaps such as LinkedIn’s password breach earlier this year, or they may lack the knowledge needed to protect users online. It is a good general rule: Do not entrust important information about yourself to another person or organization without knowing exactly how they will protect it. Blind faith can lead to ruin.
Consumers are not just concerned about protecting their personal information and passwords. Advertising plays a major role in how the Web operates, and during the the past several years there has been a significant increase in behavioral targeting. Internet ad providers track user behavior through browser cookies or unique identifiers in smartphones. This allows them to deliver ads based on the user's location or websites the user has visited recently. Forty percent of respondents to TRUSTe's survay said a targeted ad made them feel uncomfortable and 50% said they would opt out of behavioral advertising given the chance (up from 27% in 2011).
When it comes to mobile, 85% of respondents said they would not download an app if they did not trust it. That is a logical response by consumers and something that application developers should be aware of. About 62% of respondents said they were aware that advertisers tracked mobile activity, but only 1% said they liked it. Less than 10% of smartphone owners expressed willingness to share specific information about their activities such as location, Web behavior or list of contacts.
See the infographic below for a quick look at TRUSTe’s results.