Most Internet users want to end tracking of personal data: Ovum

Privacy advocate says privacy settings alone are not enough for users to feel reassured that their personal data will be protected

Most Internet users around the world would put an end to their personal data being collected and tracked by companies if they could easily do so, according Ovum’s latest Consumer Insights Survey.

The survey consists of 11,000 respondents across 11 counties and found that 68 per cent of respondents said that if there was a ‘do not track’ option on the websites they visit they would use it to stop Internet companies from tracking them.

“Taking the supply of… personal data for granted seems to be an accident waiting to happen,” Ovum analyst Mark Little said.

The survey also found 86 per cent do not trust Internet companies to be honest about what they do with users’ data.

With concerns over Google and Facebook changing their data use policies, for example, and the ongoing privacy issues that arise from the Internet, Ovum said users are showing their reluctance to share content online.

“However, consumers are being empowered with new tools and services to monitor, control, and secure their personal data as never before, and it seems they increasingly have the motivation to use them,” said Little.

He said companies need to keep developing more advanced privacy tools and settings and build user trust by being more transparent in their data collection and use policies.

However, privacy advocate David Lindsay from the Australian Privacy Foundation said privacy settings alone are not enough for users to feel reassured that their data will be protected. He said more privacy laws are needed if users are to be confident that Internet companies will act in the best interests of their users.

“While privacy protection technologies have some role to play, the protection of consumers' personal data is simply too important to leave to private developers and the market. If governments want to promote the digital economy the best thing they can do is to enact strong privacy laws, and ensure that those laws are properly enforced,” he said.

“By taking these steps, governments can assist in building consumer confidence in online transactions, which is threatened by current and emerging tracking technologies.”

Ovum said if majority of Internet users were to stop companies from being able to track them it would “threaten” the digital economy.

“This hardening of consumer attitudes, coupled with tightening regulation, could diminish personal data supply lines and have a considerable impact on targeted advertising, CRM, big data analytics, and other digital industries.”

Lindsay said building user trust is the “most important driver for growing the digital economy” and Internet companies should put privacy at the centre when implementing new policies or technologies.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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