Consumer Reports: Most People Worried About Online Privacy, Personal Data, Employer Bias, Privacy Policies

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Like most of us concerned with online privacy, a new Consumer Reports survey echoes the sentiments of the day.

A whopping 71% of consumers have serious concerns about their online privacy and about the collection and use of their personal data.

Among smartphone users, the big worry — among 65% of consumers — is that apps could access their contacts, photos, and location data without their permission. And 53% are concerned that data from their online activities and purchases could be used to deny employment or loans.

These findings came from a recent telephone survey among 1,017 random adults that described several common privacy concerns. The results also showed that respondents have the following concerns:

  • Advertisers targeting kids with personalized ads based on data they collect while kids surf the Web (58%).
  • Companies holding on to your data, even when they don’t need it anymore (56%).
  • Advertisers targeting you with personalized ads by collecting data about your interests and purchases online (44%).
  • Privacy policies that are too long and complicated (42%).

In addition to its poll, Consumer Reports also reached out to grassroots activists and most were particularly concerned about data security and identity theft; companies sharing or selling their personal information without their permission; companies holding on to personal data for long periods of time; privacy policies that are too long and complicated; and kids being tracked online.

This isn’t the first time the magazine has explored such issues. In fact, the June 2011 issue of Consumer Reports featured a “State of the Net” survey, which interviewed 2,089 online households to study the various threats to our online security and privacy.

The results? One-third of households had experienced a malicious software infection in the previous year. Almost 30% use their mobile phones without any security precautions, potentially jeopardizing bank information, medical records, and other sensitive data.

More than 7.5 million kids under 13 were on Facebook this past year. This is despite Facebook’s terms of service, which requires users to be at least 13 years old.

Technology editor Jeff Fox said “even more troubling was the finding from our survey that indicated that a majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children’s use of the site.”

 

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.