Privacy policies don't ease fears, Jupiter finds

Most consumers said in a recent survey that a prominently displayed privacy policy on a Web site isn't likely to earn their trust.

New York-based Jupiter Communications found that 64 per cent of online consumers said they are unlikely to trust a Web site even when a privacy policy is displayed. That finding seems to call into question the effectiveness of government and industry efforts to alleviate consumer concerns by prominently posting privacy policies online.

Part of the problem, Jupiter suggested, is that consumers confuse privacy and security. Keeping credit-card information secure is the top consumer concern when it comes to e-commerce, but online users apparently tend to lump that issue with privacy, Jupiter said.

Rather than allowing media reports and government regulators to shape the dialogue over privacy issues, Web sites need to be proactive in educating consumers and tackling their fears, according to an executive summary of the report.

"As media and government scrutiny increase, in turn fuelling consumer fears, the privacy issue could quickly turn into the privacy problem," which could affect online advertising and digital commerce revenue, the executive summary said.

"Although most sites now post a privacy policy, consumer fears regarding privacy are proving to be complex and therefore not easily assuaged," the summary said.

Jupiter asked survey respondents to identify the top two factors that would lead to more trust of Web sites when it comes to privacy, and 37 per cent said that they "simply did not trust Web sites with their privacy". Posted privacy policies do allay worries of 36 per cent of those surveyed.

Government regulation wasn't the answer, either. Just 14 per cent said they would be more likely to trust a Web site when it comes to privacy if the site were subject to government regulation. Even less credible in terms of privacy are sites recommended by family and friends. Only 9 per cent of the 2015 online consumers surveyed said such a recommendation would contribute to their trusting a site to not violate their privacy.

Faring somewhat better were sites that post third-party privacy seals. Twenty-seven per cent of the respondents said such a seal would contribute to their willingness to trust a site, although Jupiter contends that's not good enough.

"...Third-party privacy initiatives need to do more to educate consumers about the role such initiatives play in ensuring privacy standards," the executive summary said.

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