A recent survey1 by Consumer Reports found that 71 percent of respondents were “very concerned” about companies selling or sharing information gathered about them without their permission.

Sixty-five percent of smartphone owners were “very concerned” that smartphone apps can access their contacts, photos, location, or other data on their devices without their permission.

More than half of respondents also said they were very concerned about:

  • Advertisers targeting kids with personalized ads based on data they collect while kids surf the Web (58%)
  • Companies holding on to your data, even when they don’t need it anymore (56%); and
  • Data about your online activities and purchases being used to deny you employment or affect your ability to get a loan (53%)

When asked about the use of personalized ads and privacy policies:

  • 44 percent said they were concerned about advertisers targeting them with personalized ads by collecting data about their interests and purchases online; and
  • 42 percent said they were concerned about privacy policies that were too long and complicated.

Consumers Union (CU) submitted these survey results to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) this week in response to a request for comments on its proposal to establish a multistakeholder process. This process seeks to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, released by the White House in February 2012, by developing codes of conduct for consumer data privacy.

In addition to its survey, CU reached out to grassroots activists to hear their opinions on which issues the multistakeholder process should take up first. We received over 3,100 responses, which we attached in our comments to the NTIA. You can view our letter here.

In conjunction with other advocacy organizations, CU also asked the NTIA to ensure that the proposed multistakeholder process is transparent and inclusive. To that end, we laid out a list of fundamental principles, developed under the leadership of the World Privacy Forum, which must be adopted in order to create a legitimate process. These can be viewed here.

We commend the NTIA for taking important steps to begin the process of developing appropriate rules of the road for online privacy. Consumers Union plans to play an active role in this process and continue to advocate for greater online privacy protections for all consumers.


1The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey using two nationally representative probability samples: landline telephone households and cell phones. 1,017 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over March 29-April 1, 2012. The sampling error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.