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Consumer Reports, Times polls find broad data privacy concerns

April 03, 2012|By David Sarno

Most consumers are "very concerned" about Internet firms selling information about them without their permission, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

The poll found that 71% of consumers were very concerned about online data collection, while 65% were worried about  the way smartphone apps could access their personal contacts, photos, location and other data without their permission.

The report came on the heels of a Times poll that found similar levels of concern. The USC Dornsife/Times survey, published Sunday, found that 82% of Californians were very or somewhat concerned about Internet and smartphone firms collecting their information.

The USC/Times poll also found that when consumers were asked to rate how much they trusted some of the best-known tech firms, the scores were low.  On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being absolute trust, no firm scored highter than a 4.6 -- that was Apple. 

Google received a 3.8, while LinkedIn scored 3.0. YouTube was rated 2.8, Facebook scored 2.7, and Twitter earned a 2.4.

Pollsters said most large institutions -- Congress, the Catholic Church, teachers unions and the like -- are generally held in low regard by the public, so the tech industry's low marks were not surprising in that sense.  What was striking, they said, was that consumers would give such low ratings to firms that produced some of the culture's most beloved digital products and services -- the phones, social networks and search engines that consumers use many times a day.

The Consumer Reports survey, which polled 1,017 Americans in a nationally representative sample, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

That poll also found that just 20% of respondents consumers said they read online privacy policies always or most of the time, including just 5% who said they always did. Meanwhile, 56% said they rarely or never read the documents.

RELATED:

Smartphone apps dial up privacy worries

Tech firms' data gathering worries Californians, poll finds

Poll: Tech industry more crucial to California than entertainment

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