Three quarters of people in the European Union accept that disclosing personal information online is necessary for everyday life, but are worried about the way data is stored and used, according to research by the European Commission.
The survey of 26,574 citizens found that 70 per cent are concerned about how companies use personal data, while 74 per cent want to give specific consent before any data is collected and processed online.
Furthermore, 75 per cent want to be able to delete personal information online whenever they want, and a whopping 90 per cent want a single system of data protection rights across Europe.
The most common concern is fraud, mentioned by 55 per cent of respondents, followed by information being used without permission on social networking sites (44 per cent) and information being shared between companies (43 per cent).
People are also more comfortable providing data to public authorities than private companies. Some 78 per cent of respondents trust their private information with a hospital, and 70 per cent with the government. But this falls to 39 per cent for retailers and 32 per cent for internet providers.
However, this faith in the public sector may be misplaced. The Information Commissioner's Office has fined public authorities on four occasions, while an NHS body lost eight million records on Wednesday.
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said in response to the concerns that she is working hard to give citizens more control, specifically the "right to be forgotten".
"Most people are used to giving out personal data to shop online or use social networking sites, but they're equally worried about how this data will be used, and don't always feel in control," she said.
"That's why, when I modernise the data protection rules, I want to explicitly clarify that people shall have the right, not just the possibility, to withdraw their consent to data processing."
The findings echo a report by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee which called for businesses in the EU to make it easier for customers to access, amend and delete personal data.
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