By Daniel Hunter

New research from Deloitte has found it would take British internet users 31 hours to wade through the privacy policies of all the websites they visited in a year.

Data Nation 2013: Balancing growth and responsibility considered Great Britain’s attitudes to data collection and use by private and public sector organisations. The research revealed that, on average, it would take 25 minutes to read a website’s privacy policy in full.

And, although 35% of people are fully aware that their data is collected and used, this represents a drop of 10% from 2012, revealing that more should be done to educate internet users on what’s happening with their data and why.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Deloitte, shows that people are still not confident in the way that companies collect, use, handle and share data. Just 38% believe companies will keep their data safe, while only 22% are confident their details won’t be sold on to other organisations.

Despite generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ being the most prolific generators of data, particularly through social media, they are the least likely to understand the consequences of the digital trails they leave behind. Nearly one-third (28%) of these generations perceive that companies have little or no information about them, or simply don’t know how much data is collected. This compares with 19% for generation ‘X’ and 14% of baby boomers.

“The British public is still not confident in how companies use and handle their personal data. Organisations need to make it easier for individuals to understand why this information is collected and what benefit they will receive," Harvey Lewis, Deloitte Analytics research director, commented.

"Businesses are more likely to get maximum benefit from data if every customer interaction is based on the principles of transparency, trust and informed dialogue.”

Deloitte’s research also looked at the amended Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation, or ‘cookie law’, one year on from its implementation. While this law was designed to give internet users greater awareness of the digital information that organisations keep on them, Deloitte’s research suggests a key tenet of this regulation has failed. Over half (57%) of internet users usually ignore notices about cookies or have not seen them and just 4% said they know a great deal about the cookie law.

“To a large extent, this lack of knowledge can be attributed to the time when users are first made aware of cookies, which is normally when a user first arrives on a website.The majority of consumers won’t read about cookies at this point, since they’re likely to be focused on the original reason they accessed the page," Peter Gooch, privacy practice leader at Deloitte, said.

“Promoting transparency about the use of cookies and personal data is a good thing. However, consumer engagement will depend on the timing of when they receive the information, and how easily privacy policies can be understood.

"If the cookie law is truly to have a positive effect, then more layered policies will need to be created. This will ensure consumers are educated not just through the initial notice of cookies, but at a point when they are more likely to read the detail.”

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