Americans Anxious Over Online Privacy


Mike Sachoff | Staff Writer


The overwhelming majority (93%) of people think Internet companies should always ask permission before using personal information and 72 percent want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior. “Americans are clearly concerned with how their personal information is being collected and used by Internet companies,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst with Consumers Union. “The vast majority of consumers want more control over their personal information online and want the ability to stop internet companies from tracking and profiling them.”

The majority of Americans are concerned about what is being done with their personal information online according to a new poll from Consumer Reports.

The poll found that 82 percent of people are concerned about their credit card numbers being stolen online, while 72 percent are concerned that their online activity is being tracked and profiled by companies. Over two-thirds (68%) of Americans have provided personal information to gain access to a Web site, but 53 percent said they were not comfortable with Internet companies using their email content or browsing history to send relevant ads, and 54 percent are uncomfortable with third parties collecting information about their online behavior.

The poll shows that people are taking steps to limit the information that is being compiled and shared about them online. Thirty-five percent use alternate email addresses to avoid providing real information; 26 percent use software that conceals their identity; and 25 percent have provided bogus information to access a Web site. People are aware that information about their surfing habits is being collected online, but many do not know what companies do with their information.

The majority (61%) believe what they do online is private and not shared without their permission. Just over half (57%) falsely believe that companies are required to identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data. Just under half (48%) incorrectly believe their consent is required for companies to use personal information they collect from online activities and 43 percent wrongly believe a court order is needed to monitor activities online.

“Many consumers have misconceptions about the information available about them and how commonly it is sold by companies without their knowledge,” said Kelsey. “Our poll makes clear that consumers want more control over the treasure trove of information companies are collecting about their activities online.”


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