Last week I wrote about data brokers and the extensive dossiers they maintain on consumers.  As I mentioned, that was just one of several thought provoking topics discussed during the June 27th Consumer Action “Do Not Track” Conference.

Today I want to share some of the key findings from the May 2nd to 5th telephone survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) for Consumer Action.  ORC interviewed 1000 adults (18 years and older).  There were 660 interviews conducted on landlines and 350 interviews conducted on cellphones.

Very briefly, consumers have some confusion about “Do Not Track” but clarity about what they want:

  1. One-third of the respondents were unaware of the scope of online tracking and data collection and didn’t realize that they could be followed from website to website;
  2. Nearly 50% of the respondents thought it was against the law for them to be tracked online without their permission;
  3. A majority (76%) of the respondents said they want more control over when they’re tracked online;
  4. An overwhelming majority (87%) of the respondents said they believe they should have the right to control online collection of personal information; and
  5. Nearly all (91%) of the respondents said their “Do Not Track” preferences should be respected on the Internet while more than half said they don’t believe online marketers care about consumers’ online privacy.

So how can consumers get more control over where and how they’re tracked?  One current effort is being undertaken by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  This is a group composed of representatives from U.S. and international companies, privacy groups and academia that is trying to come up with a standard “DNT” response that companies can use.  Panelists at the Consumer Action conference voiced differing views on the chances for a successful standard being developed by the W3C by its’ end of July due date.  Such a standard would be very helpful but even that standard might not eliminate the need for “Do Not Track” legislation — another view voiced by several panelists.

I recommend going to the Consumer Action website (www.consumer-action.org), reading the survey results and thinking about the way you would have answered the questions.  As I said when talking about the XVII Heartland Monitor Poll, doing so will help you reflect on your attitudes about these important privacy issues as well as seeing how others have responded.