Privacy Statistics

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It is commonly suggested by site and software developers that it is the user's duty to protect his/her own privacy, and that he/she is in a position to do so. A recent survey by the Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center (GVU) found that 25% of Internet users have no idea what cookies are. Of the remaining respondents, 14% have no cookie policy, and 22% of users always accept cookies. The survey also found that knowledgeable women were much more cautious in accepting cookies than men, with almost 50% asking for warnings before accepting cookies.

Internet Privacy Laws

A vast majority of users feel that legislation should be enacted to protect personal privacy, with 39% and 33% agreeing strongly and somewhat respectively, that there should be new laws to protect privacy on the Internet. These figures are higher in the US over European respondents and older respondents tended to disagree more.

Reselling User Information

The rights of a content provider to resell user information was one of the most controversial topics in this survey. 82% of novices, and 79% of experts felt that information provided to sites online should not be resold.

Hampering Growth of the Internet

A recent Business Week/Harris poll also revealed that 2/3 of users who are currently not "online" would be more likely to start using the internet if the privacy of their "personal information and communications would be protected." It was found that cost, complicated technology and fear of "spam" came in well behind privacy issues as the major reason individuals are choosing to stay off the Net.

Scope of the Issue

In a study by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) of the top 100 websites as reported by on 5 June 1997, if was found that 49 of the sites collected personal information through a variety of means, including on-line registration, mailing lists, and user profiles. It was found that only 17 of the sites had a clearly stated privacy policy and, according to EPIC, none of these policies acceptably protected the user's privacy. Among the issues it raised were that few sites informed users why they were collecting the information, lack of information regarding the site's policy on third-party reselling, and the inability of users to update/correct/remove data that was stored on them.

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