Study Finds Consumers Hold Themselves Responsible for Privacy

Consumers rate themselves most responsible for protecting their own personal information, according to a survey by the Privacy Leadership Initiative.

The study was conducted by Harris Interactive as the second 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 Interactive Advertising Bureau.

In the study, a cross-section of 1,001 American adults were interviewed by telephone, and 2,180 American adults were interviewed online from April 19 to May 4.

According to the report, on a scale of 1 to 10 — one representing “not responsible at all” and 10 representing “completely responsible” — respondents who use the Internet ranked consumers 7.7 as far as their responsibility rating for protecting their own personal information. Business was close behind at 7.2, and government was third at 6.9.

With respect to confidence in business and government privacy protections, online consumers rated both a 4.9, with 1 representing “not confident at all” and 10 representing “very confident.”

Still, just 30 percent of online users said existing privacy laws and business practices provided a reasonable level of privacy protection.

Other findings include that 82 percent of online respondents have seen privacy policies on Web sites, up from 73 percent in the last study. Of those 82 percent, 67 percent have read those policies, down from 78 percent in the last study. In addition, 25 percent of online users claimed to have seen a privacy seal on a Web site — slightly up from 22 percent in the last study.

Only 10 percent of the online consumers surveyed said they had used privacy protection software, compared with 15 percent in the first study.

The seven key metrics of this study were the same as those used for the first study, which was released in April. The PLI will continue to use those metrics 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

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