Eurobarometers on data protection in EU

By EDRi · April 23, 2008

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— Version corrected on 24.04.2008—

According to a couple of Eurobarometer surveys on data protection, issued by
the European Commission on 17 April 2008, EU citizens have little faith in
the security of data transmission on the Internet.

Two surveys were conducted by Gallup in January 2008, investigating the
perceptions on data protection among EU citizens and data controllers
respectively. The surveys involved about 27000 EU citizens and 5000
companies from all 27 member states.

The findings of the surveys show that 82% of European Internet users have
little trust in personal data management on the Internet and 64% of EU
citizens are concerned about data protection issues feeling that the
awareness and information on these topics are not satisfactory enough. The
lack of information appeared to be a major problem. Especially the national
data protection authorities were rather unknown to most of the EU citizens.
Only 28% of respondents said they knew about such institutions existing in
their country.

Less than half of the respondents think data is properly protected in their
own countries and more than half of them considering the legislation cannot
cope with the increasing amount of exchanged personal information.

The surveys also reveal an increase in the awareness of the risks related to
potential abuses of private data, proportional to the increased use of
privacy protecting tools and technologies. Privacy-enhancing technologies
(PETs) that include automatic anonymisation after a certain lapse of time,
encryption tools and cookie-cutters, are better known by companies, more
than half of them using now such tools. The studies revealed that, although
increasing, the level of awareness it still relatively low among EU
citizens. More than two thirds of Internet users in some country (such as
Ireland or France) say they have never heard of PETs.

One of the topics covered by the studies was data monitoring. Citizens, as
well as data controllers, agree on the monitoring of passenger flight
details (82%), telephone calls (72%), Internet (75%) and credit card usage(69%) when this served to combat terrorism, but the majority of the citizens wanted to see the monitoring of these data restricted to terrorism suspects.

Commenting on the results of the surveys, Commission Vice-President Jacques
Barrot, temporarily in charge of justice and home affairs, said: “It is our
intention to fully analyse and understand the feedback we have been given by
Europe’s citizens in this survey and we will ensure these comments inform
the work we are doing in this area this year. I am convinced that this
survey will also be a salutary lesson for all stakeholders involved in
handling personal data and maintaining data protection”.

EU Press Release – Eurobarometer survey measures perceptions amongst
European data controllers (17.04.2008)

Eurobarometer survey reveals that EU citizens are not yet fully aware of
their rights on data protection (17.04.2008)

Data Protection in the European Union – Citizens’ Perceptions – Analytical

Data Protection in the European Union – Data Controllers’ Perceptions –
Analytical Report

Online privacy a concern for EU citizens (18.04.2008)