Online privacy is a huge subject of debate at the moment. Recent discussions surrounding the EU Cookie Directive, Edward Snowden’s PRISM leaks and David Cameron’s moves to ensure ISPs block certain content by default, have filled newspapers and digital forums alike.

But what are consumer attitudes to privacy in 2013? And who do they think are (and should be) responsible for their protection?

UK consumers appear less concerned about privacy in 2013

46% of UK consumers agree that privacy is ‘a really important issue which I think about often,’ down from 51% in 2012. The same proportion of people consider privacy ‘a somewhat important issue which I think about sometimes,’ with a further 8% admitting they ‘hardly ever think about it.’

Despite this decline in numbers of people deeming privacy ‘really important,’ of those in the UK who are concerned, 53% say they are more concerned now compared to how they felt a year ago. 

The latter findings are more in keeping with what one might expect – i.e. that concerns would increase, the more online privacy issues are discussed in the press. But at the same time, more consumers are choosing to push privacy issues to the back of their mind.

UK consumers do not feel as responsible for their own online privacy protection

When it comes to who is in charge of the protection of our online privacy, there are a range of parties UK consumers consider responsible. 

Overall, UK users put website owners/publishers and social networks ahead of themselves. 77% say website owners/publishers are a lot or wholly responsible for an individual’s online privacy and 74% say the same for social networks.

70% think it is up to the consumer instead and 67% put it down to government/regulation.

This is particularly striking when compared to TRUSTe’s data from the US, where consumers feel they are far more responsible than anyone else.

Comparatively, 81% say individuals are a lot or wholly responsible for protecting an individual’s online privacy.

Faith in government to protect internet privacy increases slightly, but still a minority view

The question of who is responsible for privacy protection and who consumers would rather be responsible leads to quite different answers, however. 43% of UK consumers would trust themselves the most to protect their own privacy, but this percentage is down significantly from 60% in 2012.

By comparison, 15% would rather trust governments and regulation the most and 8% have the most faith in independent privacy organisations.  It’s interesting to note that the preference for government to be responsible for consumer privacy has increased (if only slightly) from 11% in 2012.

Online privacy is clearly a complex area to analyse and opinions of consumers can be seen to change significantly from year to year.

While users are perhaps not as confident in their own abilities to safeguard their privacy themselves, currently it seems there is yet to be another option with whom the majority would rather have their privacy protected by.