Jupiter: Users balk at giving personal info online

Consumers, especially those in their first year online, are reluctant to provide much personal information to companies other than banks, according to a new study released Monday by research firm Jupiter Media Metrix Inc. Additionally, the study found that the majority of users surveyed are resistant to models like Microsoft Corp.'s Hailstorm, in which a single company stores user information and gives it to other vendors, companies or to the user upon request.

The study tracked users who have been online for five or more years and those online for a year or less. It examined the differences between the two groups in their willingness to store personal information beyond name, address and zip code with third parties. The bulk of new users surveyed trusted no company, with 44 percent of respondents saying that they didn't trust any company with their personal information. Thirty-four percent of long-time Net users said the same thing. Among veteran Internet users, online retailers were trusted the most, with 36 percent saying they trust those companies with personal information. Only 12 percent of new users felt the same way.

On the topic of personal-information services such as Hailstorm, the study found that 37 percent of five-year users and 48 percent of one-year users oppose such services, while 35 percent and 30 percent, respectively, are skeptical. Twenty-three percent of longtime users are tentatively in favor of such services, while 17 percent of new users feel the same way. Only five percent of veterans and six percent of new users are wholly in favor of the model.

Additionally, banks were trusted with personal information by 31 percent of five-year users and only 13 percent of new users. Credit card companies received the trust of 25 percent and 11 percent of users, respectively.

When it came to the trust placed in specific companies, ISPs ranked first, with 18 percent of veterans and 27 percent of new users saying they trust them. Among other companies studied, Yahoo Inc. has the trust of 16 percent of veteran users and 15 percent of new users, while the Microsoft Network (MSN) has the trust of 9 percent and 6 percent of users, respectively, the study found.

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Sam Costello

Computerworld

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