In spite of assertions by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and others that the age of privacy is over, new research commissioned by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch has revealed that over three quarters of consumers globally are concerned about their privacy online.
In a survey of 10,354 people across nine countries, undertaken by market research agency ComRes, 79 per cent said they were concerned about their personal privacy, with India (94 per cent), Brazil (90 per cent) and Spain (90 per cent) showing the highest level of concern.
Germany, which has one of the strongest data protection laws in the world, was the only country where a majority (56 per cent) said they are unconcerned about their privacy online.
"Germany has set an example to be followed, taking strong legal action against companies who do not respect people's privacy," said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch in a blog post.
"The fact many of the highest-profile privacy lawsuits have been tackled first there and data protection law is vigorously enforced clearly contributes to giving citizens feeling their rights are being defended."
Globally, 41 per cent of people feel consumers are being harmed by big companies gathering large amounts of data. Respondents in Australia, South Korea, UK and France were the most critical of this practice, while those in Brazil, India and Spain were the most sympathetic to them doing so.
Just under two out of three consumers surveyed believe that national regulators should do more to force Google to comply with existing regulations concerning online privacy and the protection of personal data.
"Online privacy is a global issue of real importance to people and the overwhelming message is that citizens do not feel their authorities are doing enough about the desire of large companies to collect vast amounts of data on them," said Pickles.
"The widespread support for EU regulators to do more to ensure Google complies with existing privacy regulations highlights how people want to see real, concrete action taken to protect their privacy."
The news comes amid revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been systematically gathering vast amounts of phone and web data for surveillance purposes, as part of its Prism programme.
Earlier this month, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that she was not willing to sacrifice European citizens' rights for US national security.