Study: Biz data collection a bigger worry than government

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Consumers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom are more concerned about private companies gathering and sharing their personal information than they are about electronic government surveillance, according to two newly released studies by an international data security company.

Annual surveys of U.S. and British consumers by TRUSTe, a data security platform provider, showed an overall decline in the trust people have in the privacy of their data.

In the company's U.S. study, 74 percent of those polled said they were more concerned about privacy than they were a year ago, and more of them cited business data collection rather than government surveillance programs as the reason. Although 38 percent listed media coverage of U.S. government surveillance programs as a reason for increased concern, 58 percent said businesses' sharing of personal information was the cause for their heightened concern.

A companion study done at the same time in the U.K. said online trust has fallen to its lowest point there in three years, with only 55 percent of British respondents saying they trusted most companies with their personal data. Furthermore, 20 percent said they were concerned about governments' monitoring activities, but three times as many -- 60 percent -- said they were concerned about companies sharing their personal information with other companies.

TRUSTe conducted the polls in December to gauge concerns about online privacy ahead of Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, an annual online observance sponsored by privacy advocates.

"Even with all the media coverage of government surveillance programs such as the NSA's PRISM, more consumers remain concerned about businesses collecting their information, with only 55 percent regularly willing to share their personal data online," said TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel in a statement. "These findings send a clear signal that business data collection, not government activity, is the main driver for increased privacy concerns."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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