Internet users in the United States are dangerously ignorant about the type of data that website owners collect from them and how that data is used, making them vulnerable to fraud and misuse of their personal information, a new study finds.
For the study, titled "Open to Exploitation: American Shoppers Online and Offline," 1,500 adult U.S. Internet users were asked true-or-false questions about topics such as website privacy policies. The survey was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center and released last month.
Respondents generally failed the test, answering an average of seven out of 17 questions correctly. The study's interviews, conducted between early February and mid-March, yielded findings the authors consider alarming, including:
- 49 percent can't identify "phishing" scam e-mail messages, whose designs mimic the legititimate companies they purport to represent in order to lure users into entering sensitive information such as Social Security numbers.
- 68 percent can't name any of the three credit reporting agencies that enable consumers to monitor for attempts at identity theft.