Privacy Fears On Rise, Study Says

Web users are increasingly concerned about their privacy, according to new research from TRUSTe.

The company reported today that 92% of U.S. Internet users surveyed by the group say they are worried about their online privacy, up from 89% in January of 2013. When survey respondents were asked how often they worry about their online privacy, more than one in four -- 26% -- replied “always.” An additional 21% said they worry frequently, while 45% said they sometimes worry about online privacy.

Despite all of the press attention devoted to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, fears about government surveillance were less prevalent than worries about how private companies share data. TRUSTe says that 58% of respondents reported concerns that businesses would share private information with other companies. Significantly fewer -- 38% -- said they were concerned about surveillance by the NSA.

What's more, people report that their privacy fears affect their online activity. More than eight in 10 respondents -- 83% -- say they're less likely now to click on an online ad, while 80% of respondents say they're less likely to use apps they don't trust, and 74% report they're less likely to enable location tracking.

TRUSTe's report is based on an online survey conducted in December by Harris Interactive.

Separately, Microsoft also said today that a study it conducted shows that many Web users want more information about how their data is collected and shared. Microsoft's study was based on a November survey of 1,000 people in the U.S. and Europe who are considered tech-savvy -- meaning they own a smartphone, tablet or computer and identify themselves as early adopters or influencers on technology.

The software manufacturer reports that 90% of U.S. respondents say they would like more information about who their data is shared with, 88% want more details on what's collected, and 84% want more information about how their data is used.

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