Survey: Sites Are Collecting Less Personal Data from Consumers

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Web sites are collecting less personally identifiable data about consumers and are doing a better job explaining how they use the data they collect, according to a survey released yesterday by The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Washington.


In a survey of 300 Web sites, including the 85 busiest as identified by Nielsen//NetRatings and a random sampling of sites with more than 39,000 unique visitors, the PFF found that the percentage of popular sites collecting personal data fell to 84 percent from 94 percent in 2000. The survey looked at data other than e-mail addresses. Among the random sample, 74 percent of sites were collecting personal data, down from 87 percent in 2000.


The popular Web sites surveyed included AOL.com, CartoonNetwork.com, Microsoft.com, iWon.com and Yahoo.com. The random sites surveyed included Juno.com, Tivo.com, Britney.com and BankofAmerica.com.


The survey, conducted in December 2001 by Ernst & Young, also found that fewer Web sites are using third-party cookies. It noted that cookie usage fell to 48 percent among the most popular sites, from 78 percent the previous year. Among the random sample, 25 percent used third-party cookies, down from 57 percent in 2000.


For offering choice over third-party data usage, opt-in more than doubled last year to 32 percent of the popular sites, from 15 percent in 2000. Opt-out fell to 30 percent in 2001 from 49 percent the previous year.


The survey also noted that privacy seal programs are having a tough time gaining traction with consumers. The proportion of random sites displaying privacy seals rose to 12 percent from 8 percent. Among the most popular sites, the display of privacy seals remained unchanged.


The survey is available free online from The Progress and Freedom Foundation at www.pff.org/publications/privacyonlinefinalael.pdf.


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