Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Consumers concerned about their online privacy

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Consumer Reports survey: Most consumers “very concerned” about online companies selling, sharing personal data without permission

WASHINGTON – In a national survey by Consumer Reports, most consumers expressed serious concerns about their online privacy and how their personal data is being collected and used by online companies.
The survey found 71 percent of respondents said they were very concerned about companies selling or sharing their information about them without their permission.
Sixty-five percent of smartphone owners in the survey said they were very concerned that smartphone apps could access their contacts, photos, location and other data on their devices without their permission.
More than half of respondents also said they were very concerned about:
–Advertisers targeting kids with personalized ads based on data they collect while kids surf the Web (58 percent)
–Companies holding on their data, even when the companies don’t need it anymore (56 percent);
–Data about their online activities and purchases being used to deny employment or affect their ability to get a loan (53 percent)
When asked about the use of personalized ads and privacy policies:
–44 percent said they were very concerned about advertisers targeting them with personalized ads by collecting data about their interests and purchases online
–42 percent said they were very concerned about privacy policies that were too long and complicated.
Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, submitted the survey results to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in response to a request for public comment on a proposal to establish a multistakeholder process to develop voluntary codes of conduct for consumer data privacy.
Consumers Union said it plans to play an active and vocal role in this multistakeholder process, advocating for greater online privacy protections for all consumers.
The nonprofit organization has been pressing Congress to pass legislation to give consumers more control over their online data, including a “do not track” tool to tell marketers to stop tracking your Internet browsing.
Ioana Rusu, Regulatory Counsel for Consumers Union, said, “This survey confirms that most Americans are very concerned about their online privacy. A lot of people are seriously worried about how their personal information is being exploited. Your personal data ought to be treated with respect, and you ought to have more of a say in how it’s used.”
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey using two nationally representative probability samples: landline telephone households and cell phones. 1,017 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over March 29-April 1, 2012. The sampling error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

Contact: David Butler, 202-462-6262