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Source: Privacy And American Business

Posted on August 13, 2004

      Consumers taking privacy-assertive actions are up almost 30% since 1999, according to the latest Consumer Privacy Activism Survey commissioned by Privacy & American Business (P&AB) and fielded by Harris Interactive. These survey findings link the privacy concerns consumers are expressing with real consumer actions.

      Companies should be aware that:
- 87% of respondents say they have asked a company to remove their name and address from marketing lists compared to 58% in 1999 (up 29 percentage points).
- 83% of respondents say they have refused to give information to a company because they felt it was not really needed or was too personal, compared to 78% in 1999 (up 5 percentage points).
- 81% of respondents say they have asked a company not to sell or give their name and address to another company, compared to 53% in 1999 (up 28 percentage points).
- 60% of respondents say they have decided not to use a company because they weren't sure how their personal information would be used, compared to 54% in 1999 (up 6 percentage points).
- 15% of respondents say they have asked a company to see the personal information in their customer records, compared to 18% in 1999 (down 3 percentage points).

      Online Consumers Taking Privacy Actions, Too - The 2004 survey asked respondents who identified themselves as online users if they have ever decided not to register at a website because they found the privacy policy presented there to be too complicated or unclear. Sixty-five percent said yes, representing over 94 million U.S. adult online users.

      What the Findings Tell Us - "These findings demonstrate that instead of having been dampened by the enactment and enforcement of new U.S. federal or state privacy laws -- like GLB, HIPAA, and the many anti-ID Theft laws that states currently have on the books -- American consumers are taking privacy protection into their own hands," said Dr. Alan Westin, President & Publisher of P&AB ; and Academic Advisor to this survey. "American consumer privacy activism in 2004 has risen substantially in 4 of the 5 behaviors that were already at majority levels in 1999," he continued.

      Role of U.S. Business - Dr. Westin directed his comments to Corporate Privacy Officers and thoughtful corporate leaders who he said should be communicating these survey results to the marketing and online business staffs, and all other departments that handle and make decisions about how consumer information is used within their organizations.

      He said that smart companies recognize this growing consumer trend and are moving from target marketing into permission or consensual marketing programs. Further, many are offering meaningful privacy choices, and are effectively carrying them out. The survey results show that companies that do not follow suit risk losing customers.

      "Companies should consider collecting Privacy Activism readings of their own customers," Dr. Westin advised. "They should probe how their own customers feel about the firm's present privacy policies and new information-collection and marketing campaigns the company is considering."

      The full survey article is available in the latest issue of Privacy & American Business. For your copy contact Irene Oujo at ioujo@pandab.org or visit www.pandab.org.

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