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U.S. Consumers Uninformed About Internet Privacy, Study Says

A majority of American consumers don't understand Internet privacy policies, according to a study released yesterday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Among the respondents, 57 percent thought that the presence of a privacy policy on a Web site meant that it would not share their personal information.

Though 47 percent of respondents said they thought privacy policies were easy to comprehend, 66 percent of those respondents were among the people who mistakenly believed that if a site had a privacy policy it meant that no information was ever shared.

In addition, 64 percent said they had never tried to learn about protecting their privacy on the Web, and 40 percent admitted to knowing “almost nothing” about preventing information from being collected on them.

The bulk of respondents, at 86 percent, agreed that laws to standardize privacy policy formats would help protect personal information. As a result of the survey, Annenberg Public Policy Center recommended that federal legislation be passed to make privacy policies consistent and uniform.

International Communication Research conducted the telephone survey of 1,200 adult Internet users from Feb. 5 to March 21 for Annenberg.

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