Press Release
For release: May 8, 2001
Press contact: Irene Oujo (201) 996-1154


Privacy Expert Tells Congress Strong Majority of Americans Are Now Privacy Assertive

WASHINGTON, D.C.//May 8, 2001/// Almost nine out of 10 (87 percent) online consumers in the U.S. are privacy assertive, refusing to give out personal information they feel is not necessary to complete a transaction, Dr. Alan Westin, president and publisher of the non-profit Privacy & American Business, told Congress today. And, among Net users, 61 percent say they have opted against purchasing a good or service because they were unsure how their personal information would be used, he added. According to Westin, the driving force behind these actions is consumers legitimate concern over abuse of technology that result in intrusions, manipulation, discrimination, identity theft and stalking. Westin testified that the work of this decade for survey researchers and Congress alike will be to discover right blend of business initiatives and legal oversight for business-consumer relationships, especially on the Internet. Westin, recognized as the leading authority on privacy surveys, appeared today before the Committee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, which is holding a hearing on Opinion Surveys: What Consumers Have to Say About Information Privacy. Based on his experience in creating and tracking consumer surveys over the past 40 years, Westin devised his privacy segmentation of the American public over the last decade. He said that the U.S. public divides out into three segments with very different general approaches to privacy: Privacy Fundamentalists, Privacy Pragmatists and Privacy Unconcerned. Privacy Fundamentalists represent 25% of the U.S. public with an especially high concern for privacy issues. Privacy Pragmatists, the largest segment, represent 63% of the U.S. public who believe there should be a balance between societal and business needs for information. The Privacy Unconcerned, the segment that has declined from 20 to 12% of the U.S. public, have little problem with supplying their personal information to government authorities or business. About 125 million American adults fall into the moderate Privacy Pragmatist category. Westin said that meriting and securing the trust of this group should be the focus of business and lawmakers alike for the immediate future.

For more information about todays testimony or Dr. Westins survey research on privacy, contact Irene Oujo at (201) 996-1154 or .

About Dr. Alan Westin and Privacy & American Business

Dr. Alan F. Westin is Professor of Public Law and Government Emeritus at Columbia University; Publisher of Privacy & American Business; and President of the Center for Social & Legal Research. Professor Westins major books on privacy Privacy and Freedom (1967) and Databanks in a Free Society (1972) were pioneering works that prompted U.S. privacy legislation and helped launch global privacy movements in many democratic nations in the 1960s and 70s. Between 1978 and 2001, he has been the academic advisor to Louis Harris & Associates (now Harris Interactive) for 25 national surveys of public and leadership attitudes toward consumer, employee and citizen privacy issues, in the United States, Canada, Germany and Britain. He has also done 20 national planning and proprietary privacy surveys for companies, with Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, N.J. In 1993, Dr. Westin founded Privacy & American Business, a non-profit think tank that provides expert analysis and a balanced voice on business-privacy issues. P&AB publishes a bi-monthly newsletter; conducts an annual national conference in Washington on Managing The Privacy Revolution; and leads a Corporate Privacy Officer Program and a Global Business Privacy Policies Project. P&AB also manages a global Internet website on consumers, commerce and data protection worldwide, covering privacy developments in over 100 nations.