Understanding what individuals think about privacy and data sensitivity is critical to shaping, defining and organizing societal norms and laws regarding information protection, according to a study from APCO Worldwide and The Lares Institute.

The report, authored by APCO international advisory council member and privacy expert Andrew Serwin and APCO Worldwide vice president Tina Stow, emphasizes the need to place the individual at the center of the privacy and data sensitivity debates, and provides insight into consumer sentiment about data sensitivity.

Among the study's key findings:
• The current-day model for privacy can only be effective if it is based in an examination of data sensitivity (what individuals and societies think about privacy)
• An analysis of data sensitivity is critical to inform proportional protections
• Consistent with what privacy commentators have suggested, consumers rank social security numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers, credit card account numbers and financial information among the most sensitive data elements
• However, consumers did not rank as highly other sensitive information that commentators typically focus on, such as geolocation, sexual orientation or religious background.

The results indicate that Baby Boomers (46-65-year-olds) are the most privacy-sensitive age cohort and may warrant additional consideration as policies are developed

"Current privacy models fall short of providing a blueprint that accurately reflects how individuals really feel about information and how it's used," says Serwin, executive director, The Lares Institute. "Privacy 3.0 allows businesses and regulators alike to focus on information that people are concerned about, particularly those businesses that are implementing concepts like Privacy by Design, which focuses on proactively addressing privacy in a user-centric way."