Privacy considered a shared responsibility, survey shows

Users of online services believe responsibility for privacy is shared by governments, technology suppliers and individuals, a survey has revealed

Users of online services believe responsibility for privacy is shared by governments, technology suppliers and individuals, a survey has revealed.

Individuals feel some responsibility to find out what data is collected and how it is used, but they also expect companies to be responsible users of that data and governments to play a role.

Europeans believe governments have the biggest share of the responsibility (40%) with the remainder shared equally between companies and individuals, according to the survey commissioned by Microsoft.

While US respondents followed a similar pattern, they felt governments should shoulder a greater share of the responsibility (46%) and individuals less of the responsibility (23%).

Publishing the data to coincide with International Privacy Day, Microsoft said the findings are in line with the firm’s belief that privacy will be achieved through the collaboration of the global community.

“Baseline privacy legislation, industry self-regulation, user education and technology tools need to come together, which is driving a lot of what Microsoft does,” said the firm’s chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch.

But because it is increasingly difficult for users to make meaningful privacy choices, due to the sheer volume of devices and services, Microsoft believes more responsibility should shift to organisations.

Although most respondents wanted to know more about data collection, more than half admitted they skim this information and accept terms and conditions without examining the details.

Only a fifth said they ensure they understand privacy conditions, and a similar proportion said they accept terms and conditions without reading any detail.

“Organisations need to have a comprehensive approach to privacy as we do at Microsoft, as part of our Trustworthy Computing (TwC) group,” Lynch said.

“We invest heavily in privacy-by-design and privacy features in our products and services,” he said.

European survey respondents felt technology companies can be most helpful by delivering innovations that automatically protect privacy (42%), followed by transparency about how information is collected (33%) and the provision of simple privacy controls (25%).

“We know customers expect strong privacy protections to be built into technology, so we are making privacy a priority to ensure we continually deliver new features through innovation,” said Lynch.

The survey also revealed that respondents believe they have limited control over how their personal data is used online, with Europeans feeling less in control than their US counterparts.

The results show that US respondents are more willing to make privacy trade-offs for routine online activities, while Europeans place lower value on ease of use.

For example, in making online purchases, 48% of US respondents were willing to prioritise function over privacy compared with just 36% of Europeans.

At the end of the day, said Lynch, there is a lot of strain on the concept of “notice and choice” with regards to privacy.

“It has put a lot of burden on individuals, but part of what Microsoft’s TwC group does externally is engage with policy makers, advocacy groups and the like,” he said.

Looking ahead, Lynch says Microsoft believes the model needs to evolve to being less around notice and consent at the point of collection, and more about responsible, accountable use of that data.

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