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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 02:07 PM ET, 04/03/2012

Consumers concerned about online data sharing, sales

A majority of consumers say they are concerned about online companies selling and sharing their personal data without their permission.

According to a survey from Consumer Reports, 71 percent of respondents from a recent survey said that they had concerns about companies distributing their information without permission, while 56 percent said they had similar concerns about companies that hold onto data “even when the companies don’t need it anymore.”

Over half of respondents said that they are worried about advertisers targeting kids with the data collected from younger Web users surfing sessions; while others worried that their activities would affect their ability to get jobs or loans.

When it came to questions about privacy policies, 42 percent said that they believe companies’ privacy policies are too long and complicated.

This is one area that Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has mentioned in his remarks on the subject, noting that while preparing the recent FTC privacy report, his researchers found that the average policy has more than 2,400 words.

As for mobile users, the survey found that 65 percent of smartphone owners said that they were concerned about smartphone apps that can access their contacts, photos, location and other data.

In a separate survey focused on mobile data and privacy, the ISACA — formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association — found that while users are increasing their use of location-based apps, they are worried about how that data may be shared. A little under a quarter of those who responded to this survey said they are worried about how their personal information may be used for marketing purposes, and that smartphone apps may give strangers too much information about users’ personal activities.

But 43 percent of users said they never read the terms of service agreements on apps before downloading them — probably because a quarter of respondents believe the agreements aren’t clear about how location information is being used.

By  |  02:07 PM ET, 04/03/2012

 
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