In the latest issue of the Journal of Consumer Affairs, the Annenberg School for Communication’s Joseph Turow, Michael Hennessy, and Amy Bleakley offer up an interesting article, “Consumers’ Understanding of Privacy Rules in the Marketplace.” The article summarizes findings from a national survey about online consumers’ understanding of privacy rules and regulations.
The public’s knowledge of the rules of privacy in the marketplace is clearly absent not just online but also offline and across a variety of for-profit and nonprofit entities. Our findings suggest that this ignorance goes beyond the failure to learn about specific privacy details at the point of individuals’ interactions with merchants. It is rooted in a broader difficulty: the combination of a generally correct awareness of the fragmented nature of privacy regulation linked to frequent mistakes about actual facts of those regulations.
In the face of a misunderstanding of privacy regulations in the marketplace, a two-pronged approach of education and mandatory labeling may be required to make Americans aware of the data collection environment that surrounds them.