March 20, 2003, 12:00 AM

More customers are concerned about their privacy, Harris poll reports

The number of consumers who are unconcerned about privacy and their personal data has dropped from 22% in 1999 to only 10% today, says Harris Interactive. The number who will give up personal information in return for a benefit has grown from 54% to 64%.


The number of consumers who are unconcerned about privacy and their personal data has dropped from 22% in 1999 to only 10% today, says a new privacy survey from Harris Interactive. Meanwhile, the number consumers characterized as privacy pragmatists has increased from 54% in 1999 to 64% today, Harris reports. Harris characterizes 25% of consumers as “privacy fundamentalists.” The results are an alert to online retailers that they need to exercise caution when collecting data from customers at their web sites.

“Privacy pragmatists have strong feelings about privacy and are very concerned to protect themselves from the abuse or misuse of their personal information by companies or government agencies. However, they are often willing to allow people to have access to, and to use, their personal information where they understand the reasons for its use, where they see tangible benefits for so doing and when they believe care is taken to prevent the misuse of this information,” Harris concludes.

“Privacy fundamentalists feel very strongly about privacy matters. They tend to feel that they have lost a lot of their privacy and are strongly resistant to any further erosion of it,” Harris says.

Harris bases its analysis on replies to three questions asked of 1,010 adults between February 12 and 16, 2003. Harris says replies to three questions show:
-- 69% of adults agree, "Consumers have lost all control over how personal information is collected and used by companies." This is a decline of eleven points from 80% who felt this way in 1999.
-- 54% of the public disagree that "most businesses handle the personal information they collect about consumers in a proper and confidential way." This is an increase of nineteen points from only 35% who felt this way in 1999.
-- 53% of all adults disagree that "existing laws and organizational practices provide a reasonable level of protection for consumer privacy today." This is an increase of fifteen points from 38% in 1999.


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