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Source: NewsFactor Network

Posted on February 10, 2001

      Seventy-five percent of children are willing to disclose private family information online in exchange for goods and services, according to a new report released by eMarketer.

      The tendency of children to disclose such information is especially significant because the new U.S. Congress is gearing up for an Internet privacy battle on Capitol Hill, where protecting children online is bound to take center stage.

      According to the report, children who are offered incentives, such as prizes, products or cash, are more likely to provide their family's personal information online.

      Fifty-four percent of the children surveyed were willing to disclose the name of their parents' favorite store, while 26 percent were willing to tell e-tailers about their parents' weekend activities.

      "Children and teens were very casual about revealing family information," eMarketer analyst Rob Janes told the E-Commerce Times. "It can't be extrapolated accurately to the entire population, but it's a good strong indicator of how kids will respond to information online. It's an issue that parents should address."

Legal Questions

      The eMarketer report also raises questions because in April, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect in the United States, making it a federal offense for commercial Web sites to collect personal information from children under 13 without parental permission.

      Under COPPA, Web sites must allow parents to review any information collected from a child, and must delete information at a parent's request.

      "These numbers are not necessarily in violation of the law," Janes noted. "The report shows kids' willingness to give information online, it doesn't say how much they're actually doing it."

Selling Tips

      According to the study, the information typically given by children online tends to be marketing-related, instead of security breaches.

      "The information is not the really serious information like credit card or Social Security numbers," said Janes. "It's more stuff that's of value to a marketer, such as product information, family activities, etc. It's more of an educational issue for kids in learning how to use the Net."

Older Victims

      Interestingly, the eMarketer report also found that the greatest percentage of users falling victim to online fraud are not children, but rather the Generation X and Baby Boom generations. According to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, only 4.1 percent of Internet frauds affect victims under the age of 20.

      Auction sites are the primary source of Internet fraud, according to the report. Over 86 percent of e-fraud instances in the year 2000 were directly attributed to online auction activity, the report said.

      "The fraud issue really has more to do with how much shopping you're doing, particularly at auction sites," Janes said. "Second, there are the people who will fall victim to various scams like work at home schemes, etc. Kids aren't going to be doing that, they're not the major shoppers online."

Wise Words

      In addition, those who shop more regularly and who have more experience on the Net are more likely to provide their personal information online, according to eMarketer.

      The majority of users who are willing to share their personal information with Web sites do so to receive personalized services, the report said.

      "Part of being online longer means you know what you want more specifically, and personalization offers a great deal of convenience for the user -- they're making that tradeoff," Janes said.

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