Despite having tighter privacy laws, websites in Europe are no better at informing visitors how they use customer data than their US counterparts, according to a report.
UK-based advocacy group Consumers International found that the vast majority of European sites examined gave users no choice about being included on mailing lists or having their names passed on to third parties.
But sites in both Europe and the US fall woefully short of the standards set by international guidelines on data protection, the study said. The majority of the 751 European and US sites examined ignore even the most basic principles of fair information use, such as telling consumers how their data will be used, how it can be accessed and what choices the consumer has about its use, according to the report.
"Privacy is recognised as a fundamental human right, yet we've found that too many companies collect a lot of unnecessary, very personal information about their customers. Because of inadequate implementation of existing government measures, people do not have control over their data," said Anna Fielder, a director at Consumers International.
The study also found almost 67 per cent of sites collect some sort of personal information, such as email name and phone number, and almost all of those asked for details that made it easy to identify and contact individuals. Furthermore, privacy policies were not always easily accessible and only 58 per cent of the sites that collected information have such policies.
The study pointed out that popular US sites were more likely than the European ones to give users a choice about being on mailing lists, despite European legislation which states that users must be given a choice.
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