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EU: Attitudes on Data Protection and Electronic Identity in the European Union

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This report presents the results of the largest survey ever conducted regarding citizen's behaviours and attitudes concerning identity management, data protection and privacy. It represents the attitudes and behaviours of Europeans on this subject. 

The main findings of the survey include: 

  • 74 % of the Europeans see disclosing personal information as an increasing part of modern life.
  • Information considered as personal is, above all, financial information (75 %), medical information (74 %), and national identity numbers or cards and passports (73 %).
  • Social networking and sharing sites users are more likely to disclose their name (79 %), photo (51 %) and nationality (47 %). Online shoppers' actual online disclosure of personal information mainly involves their names (90 %), home addresses (89 %), and mobile numbers (46 %).
  • The most important reason for disclosure is to access an online service, for both social networking and sharing site users (61 %) and online shoppers (79 %).
  • A majority of Europeans are concerned about the recording of their behaviour via payment cards (54 % vs. 38 %), mobile phones (49 % vs. 43 %) or mobile Internet (40 % vs. 35 %).
  • Almost six in ten Internet users usually read privacy statements (58 %) and the majority of those who read them adapt their behaviour on the Internet (70 %).
  • Only one-third of Europeans are aware of the existence of a national public authority responsible for protecting their rights regarding their personal data (33 %).
  • Just over a quarter of social network users (26 %) and even fewer online shoppers (18 %) feel in complete control.
  • Europeans use the following types of credentials: mostly credit cards and bank cards (74 %), national identity cards or residence permits (68 %), government entitlement cards (65 %), or driving licences (63 %). 34 % of respondents have an account they use on the Internet, such as email, or for social networking or commercial services.
  • To protect their identity on the Internet, the most usual strategies are technical or procedural, like tools and strategies to limit unwanted emails such as spam (42 %), checking that the transaction is protected or the site has a safety logo or label (40 %), and using anti-spy software (39 %).
  • Authorities and institutions - including the European Commission and the European Parliament (55 %) - are trusted more than commercial companies.
  • Turning to Europeans' own data handling, 28 % are prepared to pay for access to their personal information stored by public or private entities.
  • Even though a majority of European Internet users feel responsible themselves for the safe handling of their personal data, almost all Europeans are in favour of equal protection rights across the EU (90 %).
  • More than four in ten Europeans would prefer the European level of administration for enforcing regulation (44 %), while a somewhat smaller number would prefer the national level (40 %).
  • Europeans' opinions are divided with respect to the circumstances under which the police should have access to personal data. In contrast, they almost all agree that minors should be protected from (95 %) and warned against the disclosure of personal data (96 %); and a vast majority are in favour of the special protection of genetic data (88 %). 

Number of pages: 330


Publication date:
01 June 2011
Directorate-General Information Society and Media (INFSO), Directorate-General Justice (JUST) and the Directorate-General Joint Research Centre underc the coordination of the Directorate-General Communication (Research and Speechwriting Unit), European Commission
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Geographic coverage:
EU Institutions
eGovernment, eIdentity and eSecurity, Legal Aspects
electronic identity, personal data protection, privacy
TNS Opinion & Social
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