Still, the numbers are eye-catching. And as important as the numbers themselves is what the study says about the disconnect between how Americans conceive of privacy, company practices and the government’s approach to regulation of those practices, said Chris Hoofnagle, director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology’s information privacy programs, who helped advise the students.
“Consumers were complaining to the F.T.C. about a lack of control over personal information,” Mr. Hoofnagle said. “That is very different from how the F.T.C. has framed the issue,” he said, noting that under the Bush administration, the agency frowned on privacy practices only if they caused harm to consumers.
Mr. Hoofnagle added: “We have a new F.T.C. now. They may scrap the ‘harm’ approach and look at some other method for balancing rights and responsibilities.”