Majority Of Web Users Fret Over Privacy

Pedro Hernandez covers Microsoft products and services, such as Office, Windows, Windows Phone, Azure and Skype.

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A Microsoft survey has revealed that the majority of Web users are very concerned about their online privacy

The importance of online privacy has been underlined in a new survey from Microsoft, which found that the majority of Web users are concerned about it.

The software giant polled 4,000 consumers in the US, France, Germany and the UK as part of the Your Privacy Type campaign, which launched in April.

Privacy Lessons

Mary Snapp, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in an 22 April post in the Microsoft on the Issues blog that in addition to targeted ad campaigns in Washington, DC, and Kansas City, Mo., the company had implemented “a new online resource for consumers that will help them learn about their privacy behaviours and take steps to shape their online personas.”

PrivacyThe online resource includes a quiz to help visitors determine their “privacy type” – from a carefree Web surfer to a locked-down, privacy-conscious social media user and points in between. After taking the quiz in her own home, Snapp reported: “I’m a ‘Privacy Please’ individual, while my husband is more of the ‘Carefree Surfer’ type.”

Microsoft’s latest data indicates that most Web surfers side with her, at least in spirit.

According to Microsoft, 84 percent of respondents expressed concern about their online privacy. However, comparatively few are doing anything about it.

“That particular finding was not surprising by itself, but interesting when compared to only 47 percent of the respondents who were actively taking measures to protect their privacy online. There’s a wide gap between interest and action,” wrote Snapp in a 13 May blog post. The purpose of the company’s privacy campaign, in part, is to “understand the gap between interest and action,” she added.

Microsoft also discovered distinct Web usage patterns and differing attitudes toward online privacy between users in the US, France, Germany and the UK.

Only 27 percent of Germans are willing to provide their email address, the lowest showing of any country polled by the company. Germans are also less likely to keep an active social media account. In contrast, 87 percent of respondents in the US had active social media accounts.

Internet users in the UK are more likely to take measures to protect their online privacy (51 percent). French users are more open to sharing their birth date (63 percent).

Online Campaign

Of late, Microsoft has been vocal on online privacy, particularly as a knock against its chief rival in the online services space, Google.

In February, Microsoft set its sights on Gmail and revived the “Scroogled” ad campaign to promote its Outlook.com Webmail service. Arguing that emails between friends and loved ones “should be personal,” in one ad, the narrator ominously said that “Google crosses the line and goes through every single Gmail. Every word. In every email. To and from everyone. To sell ads, based on your most personal messages.”

“And there’s no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy,” claimed the voice-over. Microsoft, on the other hand, contends that its email services “do not use the content of customers’ private emails, communications or documents to target advertising.”

Are you a pedant on privacy? Try our quiz!

Originally published on eWeek.