Minding the privacy gap

Posted by Mary Snapp
Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Microsoft’s new consumer privacy campaign and a quiz we developed – Your Privacy Type (YPT) – for consumers to gauge where they fall on the privacy continuum.

Thus far, the campaign and the YPT quiz have generated discussion and positive reactions in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Germany. We’re also seeing strong engagement with consumers on our website, which has been localized to German and now French as our advertising expands into France this week.

As part of the launch of the Your Privacy Type quiz, we surveyed 4,000 consumers in the U.K., France, U.S. and Germany (1,000 in each market) to gain a quantitative perspective of how they felt about privacy issues (using the same questions as our quiz online). We looked at the privacy behaviors and “privacy type” for each market and found some interesting results.

Eighty-four percent of those polled expressed concern about their online privacy. That particular finding was not surprising by itself, but interesting when compared to only 47 percent of the respondents who were actively taking measures to protect their privacy online. There’s a wide gap between interest and action.

The research also demonstrated interesting regional nuances as illustrated in the infographic below. As a lawyer and a “Privacy Please” type myself, it was encouraging to see that most consumers value privacy, with an average of almost 40 percent falling into the same category as I do. The number of “Carefree Surfers”, who are highly active online and are not worried about sharing information, is slightly higher in the U.S. and the U.K., but still very comparable to other markets surveyed.

Other interesting figures from our survey:

· Germans are less likely to have an active social media account, and less inclined to share information through these networks. Just 27 percent share their email address.

· In France, where the campaign is launching today, less than half of respondents who use social media share their full name (49 percent), hometown (47 percent) or email (34 percent). Yet nearly two-thirds share their birthday (63 percent) – far more than in other countries (U.S. – 56 percent, U.K. – 48 percent and Germany – 47 percent).

· The U.S. has the highest number of active social media accounts, with 87 percent.

· In the U.K., consumers are most likely to take action: 51 percent of U.K. respondents say they are taking measures to protect their online privacy, followed by 48 percent in the U.S., 46 percent in France and just 44 percent in Germany.

As we launched the campaign last week in the U.K., I was reminded of an interesting phrase that is somewhat synonymous with that market: “Mind the Gap”. The phrase was originated by operators of the London Underground in 1969 as a short warning for commuters to be careful entering and exiting the Tube so as not to slip between the car and the platform.

At Microsoft, we too are trying to “mind the gap” between people’s concerns about their online privacy and their actual actions to protect that privacy. Our privacy campaign is designed not only to better inform consumers of the actions they can take to protect their privacy, but also to help us better understand the gap between interest and action.

This continues to be an issue of great importance for us, and will remain a top priority for Microsoft in meeting the needs of the hundreds of millions of consumers who gain value from our products and services every day. We can only meet this commitment if we engage with you to better understand your needs and deliver the kind of choice and control you’re seeking.

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