Those privacy settings you put up on your Internet connection to block pop-ups may be more confusing that effective. A new study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found internet users say most privacy tools are not user friendly.

Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory, found that privacy options in popular browsers and online tools or plug-ins for blocking Internet ads were hard for the average user to understand or to configure.

"All nine of the tools we tested have serious usability flaws. We found that most people were confused by the instructions and had trouble installing or configuring the tools correctly," Cranor said. "Often, the settings they chose failed to protect their privacy as much as they expected, or to do anything at all."

Cranor and her team used 45 frequent Internet users with no technical training.

The study also found users are not aware of what companies track their internet behavior, so tools that ask them to set opt-out or blocking preferences on a per-company basis are ineffective; and information on how to configure the settings are either too simplistic to fully inform a user or too complex.

"The status quo clearly is insufficient to empower people to protect their privacy from OBA companies," she said. "A lot of effort is being put into creating these tools to help consumers, but it will all be wasted — and people will be left vulnerable — unless a greater emphasis is placed on usability."