In new Internet privacy research, it was found that almost three-quarters of Americans worry about the quantity of personal information available online.  More than half feel they cannot trust social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep their contact information, buying habits and beliefs confidential, according to a new poll released by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark of craigconnects at Online Privacy Data.

The data as part of a wide-ranging survey shows the mistrust of websites and social media sites by users. From the survey, the top concern was about tracking cookies. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they were concerned about such cookies being placed on their computers without their knowledge, and 36 percent said they knew for a fact that this had happened to them.

Interesting that Americans feel manipulated and exposed by the websites and platforms. Yet these feelings don’t stop them from using Facebook or other websites. The survey does show that more and more people are becoming aware of online privacy concerns and at the same time shows that they don’t understand it fully.

The poll suggested that many Americans do not think it is their responsibility to set limits on their privacy.

That’s where the disconnect is. The research stated that while 60 percent of respondents either thought current privacy laws were too weak or weren’t sure, a similar number—66 percent—said they either skim through a website’s terms of service (TOS) before agreeing or do not read the terms of service at all. While we say we are concerned about our online privacy, we really don’t pay attention to the TOS of the websites and social media platforms we are using.

How does this new Internet privacy research affect your  startup and established businesses with an online presence?

Users are becoming more aware of online privacy concerns. And some may chose not use your product or service depending on your TOS. Facebook is facing that with the recent switch to a separate app for private messages. There is a backlash against the perceived overreaching TOC. Users are choosing not to download and use the app on their smart phone. Instagram faced a revolt by users in 2012 regarding their revised TOC.

As an organization, arm yourself with this knowledge that people are concerned about their online privacy while at the same time do not read the TOC. There are three things you need to think about moving forward:
– Decide how much data you really need to collect from your users to make your product or service effective.
– Draft a TOC that you don’t have to be a lawyer to read and understand being very clear what data you are collecting.
– Post a privacy policy on your website outlining what data you are collecting.
Relationships including business ones are build on trust. The data from the survey shows that users are not trusting platforms. Trust is build out of respect. As an organization, earn that trust by respecting your users concerns.

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