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European consumers attitudes on privacy

10 April, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Einstellung europäischer Verbraucher zum Datenschutz

Some interesting results from a quantitative and qualitative analysis made by the EU-funded CONSENT project to find out about the consumers' attitudes awareness of privacy issues online and service providers' practices were presented at the final conference of the project, that took place in Malta on 20-21 March 2013.

The results indicate that there is indeed a high variability between different EU countries in the perception of personal risks, privacy loss or unexpected problems related to giving personal information to websites. From an elevated level of perceived control on privacy in Germany or Austria to the concept of privacy as "little developed" in Romania, Bulgaria or Slovakia.

There are other results available for the whole EU level that are worth the attention:

- The correspondence between the awareness levels of website owners’ practices in relation to privacy and the awareness of technical protection measures

- More than 50% of all respondents indicate that they often or always change their privacy settings in UGCs and social networks. Four out of five actually make their privacy settings stricter than the default settings

- Generally, rather low portion of privacy policy readers (24%). Only 11% of readers claim to fully understand the privacy statement or policy they have read.

Another part of the project also looked at the practices of over 100 European and international social networks and UGCs website. To point just to one of the realities: Only 38 of those networks analysed required explicit consent to process personal data for commercial purposes.

But the situation of the European social networks is actually worse, because their main and powerful competitor (yes, you guessed - Facebook) seems to be totally disobeying every single EU data protection requirement, as the practical presentation of Max Schrems from Europe-v-Facebook clearly emphasized.

The conference also focused on several panels of DPAs or civil society representatives (including EDRi) that presented their feedback on the CONSENT draft policy brief that would be available to the policy makers, especially on the European legislative level by the end of April 2013.

The EDPS, Mr Peter Hustinx, also emphasized that the notion of consent as a key in the matter of the future of online privacy and definition of explicit consent needs to be maintained as one of the cornerstones of the data protection framework. He also showed his optimism for a positive outcome of the legislative process on the data protection Regulation, following the vote in the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee.

Presenting CONSENT project results I. Consent and Social Networks (5.04.2013)

Presenting CONSENT project results II. What Consumers Think (5.04.2013)

Europe versus Facebook

Online privacy - Consenting to your future

EDRi: Parliament Legal Affairs Committee adopts improved position on privacy legislation (19.03.2013)



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