Personal Information Online Disturbs Consumers

A poll recently released by the Consumer Reports National Research Center shows that 82% of consumers are concerned about their credit card numbers being stolen online, while 72% are concerned that their online behaviors were being tracked and profiled by companies.

Although 68% of consumers have provided personal information in order to access a website, 53% are uncomfortable with internet companies using their email content or browsing history to send relevant ads, and 54% are uncomfortable with third parties collecting information about their online behavior.

The poll revealed that 93% of Americans think internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information, and 72% want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior.

Joel Kelsey, policy analyst with Consumers Union, said "Americans are clearly concerned... the vast majority of consumers want more control over their personal information online... "

The poll shows that consumers are trying to take steps to limit the information that is being collected and shared about them online. For example:

  • 35% use alternate email addresses to avoid providing real information
  • 26% have used software that hides their identity
  • 25% have provided fake information to access a website

Consumers are aware that information about their surfing habits is being collected online, but many are not aware of what companies are able to do with their information. Among the other findings of the poll:

  • 61% are confident that what they do online is private and not shared without their permission
  • 57% incorrectly believe that companies must identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data and whether they intend to share it with other organizations
  • 48% incorrectly believe their consent is required for companies to use the personal information they collect from online activities
  • 43% incorrectly believe a court order is required to monitor activities online

Kelsey concludes that "Many consumers have misconceptions about the information available about them and how commonly it is sold by companies without their knowledge..."

For more information, please view the Consumer's Union here.

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