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Users more willing to make transactions if personal details not given to other firms.

Source: Globe and Mail

Posted on January 19, 2001

      The more control Internet users have over their personal information when buying a book or paying a bill on-line, the more willing they are to keep using Internet services, a study on Internet privacy has found.

      Almost half of Internet users surveyed said they are very worried about privacy. But this fear is reduced when they are given the chance to indicate they do not want to have their personal data shared with other companies.

      Internet users simply feel better when they believe they have more control over the dissemination of their personal data on-line, a study by polling group The Gallup Organization concluded.

      "We are recommending to businesses, don't treat privacy as some sort of regulation you have to follow. It's more of a competitive advantage," said Dushyant Sharma, co-founder of electronic billing systems company Derivion Corp., headquartered in Atlanta and with offices in Markham, Ont. Derivion commissioned the survey by Gallup.

      The study found that 56 per cent of Canadian Internet users surveyed are uncomfortable with companies sharing data about their purchases. But only 38 per cent were still uncomfortable after being given the option of not having that information shared. Only 33 percent remained uncomfortable if companies were merely to ask costomers if they could share information with another company.

      "The results veer toward 'if I have control over the situation, I am a little bit more comfortable with sharing my information,'" said Gallup analyst Josephine Mazzuca.

      But this can be a matter of perception. When asked if they knew how to have their name and information removed from a customer database, only 24 per cent of respondents said they did.

      The survey attempted to shine new light on just how concerned Internet users are about who may have access to credit card numbers and other personal data after on-line transactions.

      Among the 580 surveyed who had Internet access - out of a larger sample of 1,000 Canadians contact - 46 percent of those on-line said they were either "extremely" or "very" concerned about Internet privacy. Yet, written policy statements and third-party privacy guarantees appearing on web sites can help to ease some worries.

      Nearly 30 per cent of Internet users in the study said they were more willing to share personal information when a web site has a policy statement on privacy or a third-party privacy seal. Given a choice between the two, 57 per cent said they trusted a third-party guarantee more. A connection to a bricks-and-mortar business can also help, with 35 per cent of those surveyed saying they share information only with company that has customer outlets or stores where they can actually go to shop or pay bills.

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