Survey: Users hate lack of privacy controls on Internet

Internet users want privacy, but it's increasingly difficult to find, according to the results of a study released today by open-source software company Open-Xchange.

Of the 3,000 Internet users in the U.S., U.K. and Germany surveyed, 55% said that it's "impossible" to keep their personal information private while enjoying the Internet, and 59% said that it was too hard to keep private information off the Internet.

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When asked what they would do when faced with a hypothetical service they knew was storing and monitoring their personal data, fully half said that they would immediately stop using the service, while 36% said they would want to review the data and make changes.

Open-Xchange, of course, is at least partially concerned with selling its OX Guard encryption product -- witness the additional questions on the survey about the willingness of users to use simple encryption to increase privacy. But the study is hardly a push poll, and reveals an apparent disparity between users' views on their own privacy and their views on privacy for the Internet at large.

In spite of the majority's view that keeping personal information off the Internet is "impossible," a total of 69% of U.S. users surveyed rated themselves either "slightly good" or "extremely good" at protecting their personal data online, with a further 27% rating themselves "neither good nor bad." Just 4% saw themselves as either "slightly" or "extremely" bad.

Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna was born in East Germany, and said in a statement that that experience made him particularly concerned about privacy issues.

"I know what it's like to live in a surveillance state. In fact, my childhood neighbors were found out to be informants to the Stasi, and were spying on the people living next door to them," he said. "Experiences like that don't fade away from memory, and so we Germans -- in spite of our history -- are very concerned with protecting individual rights and privacies."


Jon Gold

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