Over nine out of 10 consumer are worried about risks to online privacy, with concern over personal data growing significantly in the last 12 months.

Impact of this attitude on businesses could be significant as a recent report suggests a tendency for consumers shift their loyalty from companies they don’t trust and move to competitors with better transparency over their personal data policies.

The TRUSTe 2012 UK Consumer Data Privacy Study was conducted online among over 1,000 adults by Harris Interactive, just after the enforcement of the EU cookie directive began.

The survey found:

 - Over a quarter of consumers are more concerned with mobile privacy than website privacy
 - A third of consumers bought less from companies they didn't trust
 - Over four fifths were less inclined to share information with companies they didn't trust

The respondents thought advertisers, publishers and ad networks should be responsible for safeguarding their privacy.

TRUSTe’s research also shows that transparency is key if businesses are to address these concerns.

 Awareness of online behavioural advertising (OBA) is very high amoungst consumers and the research found over half have a negagive attitude towards it. 42 per cent believe that personally identifiable information (PII) is attached to tracking activity.

However favourability towards this kind of advertising almost doubles when consumers are assured that any data, which could identify them personally, is not used.

Consumers also reward companies for good privacy practices, with half of the respondents saying they are more inclined to click on an advertisement that gives them the option to opt out of online behavioural advertising.

55 percent are more inclined to do business with publishers and advertisers that give them the option to opt-out.

Chris Babel, CEO at online privacy management specialist TRUSTe said: “The recent EU cookie directive has put third-party tracking and online behavioural advertising under the spotlight in the UK, and has forced advertisers, publishers and brands to consider their data privacy practices and how they communicate these to their consumers."

According to research published by KPMG last month the EU cookie law has so far been largely ignored by UK institutions, despite the risk of being fined.

Cookies are small text files which are used by websites to analyse their visitors’ internet behaviour. The files are stored on a user’s hard disk to enable targeted advertising and personalised web pages.