People are increasingly worried about privacy, say legal protections fall short

Technology has had a negative impact on privacy, said a majority of those questioned in a recent global survey

Internet users in countries such as France, Germany and the U.S. are increasingly worried about the impact technology has on privacy, and feel legal protections are insufficient.

In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft on Monday, respondents said that technology's effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy.

A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.

Internet users in India, Indonesia and Russia were the least concerned, according to the survey. In general, those in developing countries were less bothered.

Surveys like this one should always be looked at with a healthy dose of scepticism. But there is little doubt that people are wary of how their personal data is used by companies and governments, according to John Phelan, communications officer at European consumer organization BEUC.

That people shouldn't take privacy for granted has been highlighted on several occasions in just the last week.

Shortly after the horrific Paris shootings, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for saying that authorities should have the means to read all encrypted traffic.

Also, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless found itself in hot water over the way one of its advertising partners used the Unique Identifier Headers Verizon embeds in its customers' Internet traffic to recreate tracking cookies that had been deleted by users. Online advertising company Turn defended its practises, but still said on Friday it would stop using the method by next month.

Worries about privacy aren't likely to subside anytime soon, with more devices becoming connected as part of the expected Internet of Things boom.

The "Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology is Changing our Lives" survey queried 12,002 Internet users in the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Japan and France. It was conducted between Dec. 17 and Jan. 1 by consultancy Penn Schoen Berland.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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