Americans want online privacy, and they want it now. So why can't we get it?

A new survey by Truste claims 94 percent of people care deeply about online privacy. Unfortunately, none of them are in the online advertising industry.

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Tis the season for surveys. Last week I noted a survey by PwC about what personal data consumers are willing to give up, and what they want in return for it. The respondents to that survey were quite concerned about their privacy and understood their data had real monetary value.

Today’s topic is another recent survey, this one commissioned by Truste, an organization that offers a Good Housekeeping-style seal of approval for corporate privacy practices. As with PwC, Truste’s survey suggests that consumer concern about online and mobile privacy is on the rise, and people are much more sophisticated about the issues than the ad industry might have you believe.

According to the survey, a whopping 94 percent of the 1000+ people surveyed consider privacy issues “really important” or “somewhat important,” and six out of ten are more concerned about it than they were a year ago. 

More than a third claim they’ve stopped visiting a Web site or doing business with a company because they were concerned for their privacy, and 83 percent are aware of behavioral (ie, targeted) ads, up from 70 percent last year.

Admittedly, asking people questions like these often inspires them to answer in the way they think they’re supposed to, not necessarily in the way they actually act when not taking an online survey.

(“Do you floss after every single meal to ensure cleaner teeth and a whiter smile? Why, yes, I’m doing it right now.”)

For example: In this survey, 40 percent of people claim to read a Web site’s privacy policy often or most of the time. I think that number is off by a factor of ten. Even I don’t read privacy policies most of the time, and I do this for a living. Likewise for things like refusing to allow third parties to share information (76 percent) or opting out of online ads (50 percent). I suspect there’s a bit of self delusion at play here (though not as much as this guy seems to believe).

Still, because Truste asked the same questions last year, you can draw the conclusion that all the public debate over mobile privacy, GPS tracking, and Do Not Track legislation has had an impact. People are more aware of the issues, and they’re taking more steps to protect themselves. That’s all good, and I’ll happily take all the credit for it.

 

OK, maybe just some of the credit.

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