End-users and their data in the Future Internet

posted 21 Aug 2013, 02:12 by Brian Pickering   [ updated 22 Aug 2013, 00:58 ]
The current case concerning Google's privacy policies(which is really about  those sending eMail to Google users) reminds us all that data protection and privacy as a concern is not going to go away any time soon.

Attitudes and discomfort about personal data and its protection have been the subject of survey and study for some time, not least as part of the European Commission’s periodic pulse surveys,  the Flash Eurobarometer studies. In 2008,
summaries were provided for the current as well as previous years’ responses. Reflecting the period 1991 to 2008, with surveys in ‘91, ’96, 2003 and 2008, this is a time, of course, when the Western World  moved through insecurities, the 09/11 attacks, and then the relative confidence and  stability of the early noughties, and into the beginnings of the financial crisis of 2008. Although direct comparison with the 2011 survey is not straight forward, there are nevertheless some interesting developments and results.

Responses vary over the survey period depending on industry. During 1991 and 2008, confidence across Europe that personal data would be protected by medical services increased from 75% at the start of that period to some 84% by 2008. Yet by 2011, this had dipped to 78%. The same trend could be seen for confidence in the treatment of personal data by banks and financial institutions had risen from 49% to 64%, and then down to 62%; and by public authorities (tax, social services, local authorities etc) rising from 47% to 75% before slipping back to 70%. During the period up to 2008, two-thirds (66%) were unaware that sensitive data require stricter control; and by 2011, in response to the question

Companies holding personal information about you may sometimes use it for a different purpose than the one it was collected for, without informing you (e.g. for direct marketing, targeted online advertising). How concerned are you about this use of your information?

seven out of ten EU citizens describe themselves as “Concerned”.

As we move towards the realisation of the Future Internet, with access to all via any device from anywhere, and in light of the current Google case and against the background of European and member state legislation on data protection, we should ask how FI application and service developers as well as data subjects (“end users”) should handle personal data and what the implications might be for users.