Privacy Group Releases Study, Relaunches Web Site

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The Privacy Leadership Initiative yesterday relaunched its Web site and released survey results indicating that most consumers are at least somewhat wary of sharing personal information online.


The study was conducted by Harris Interactive as the first in a series of seven privacy studies commissioned by the PLI.


The PLI is a privacy research and education partnership of CEOs from 15 corporations, including Acxiom, DoubleClick and Experian; and nine business associations, including the Direct Marketing Association and the Internet Advertising Bureau.


In the study, a cross-section of 1,026 American adults were interviewed by telephone, and 2,087 American adults were interviewed online from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7.


According to the report, only 10 percent of online users trust businesses completely with their personal information, 54 percent of online users trust businesses somewhat, and 35 percent do not trust businesses at all.


With respect to the government, 15 percent of online users have complete trust with regard to their personal information, 38 percent of online users trust government somewhat, and 47 percent do not trust government at all.


Still, 56 percent of online users who responded to the survey indicated that they have more trust in Web sites for brand-name products to handle their personal information properly.


"We recognize business has a significant role to play in helping consumers understand the choices they have, which is the driving force behind the formation of the Privacy Leadership Initiative," PLI executive director Walter (Wally) J. O'Brien said in a statement.


"We intend to address this problem head-on, using the results of this research to drive our activity, and create a climate of trust between consumers and businesses," he said. "And part of the solution is to help both consumers and businesses get smarter about online and offline privacy."


Other findings include that 73 percent of online respondents have seen privacy policies on Web sites. Of those 73 percent, 78 percent have read those policies. In addition, 49 percent of online users claimed to be more willing to provide personal information after seeing a privacy seal on a Web site.


Only 15 percent of the online consumers surveyed said they had used privacy protection software.


O'Brien said the survey results helped PLI to identify seven key metrics that it will use to measure the effectiveness of its efforts.


These metrics include overall acceptance of technology by consumers; trust level between consumers and businesses; familiarity and confidence levels for both well-known and lesser-known companies; key drivers and the importance of privacy concerns; use of tools, technology and privacy seals; value of personalization to consumers; and confidence levels of online versus offline.


An executive summary of the study can be found online at www.understandingprivacy.org/content/library/research.cfm.


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