Americans Anxious Over Online Privacy


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 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 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."

AT&T Pledges To Protect Internet Users Privacy
AT&T is calling on all companies that track and collect data on
Internet users search and browsing activity to give consumers more
control over how their online habits are collected and used.
"While we have no immediate plans to offer online behavioral
advertising we believe that a key dimension of any such program
would be to give customers significant control over collection and
use of their search and Web browsing data for online advertising
purposes, by requiring their advance affirmative consent," said
Dorothy Attwood, Chief Privacy Officer, AT&T, testifying before the
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and  Transportation.

"Over the past several months we have talked with consumers about
what they want and expect from any company using their online
information to provide behavioral advertising," Attwood said.
"Based on that input, we pledge to uphold a few simple principles
in the design of any online behavioral advertising program we may
deliver in the future."
Attwood said AT&T would seek permission from its customers before
collecting and using their information for online behavioral
advertising. AT&T would have transparent information about what
the company would collect and use for online behavioral advertising.
Customers will be able to opt in or out of any AT&T behavioral
advertising program. Their identities will be protected no matter
what choice they make about being part of any behavioral
advertising campaign.

Attwood pointed out that privacy issues are not only related
to ISPs. "While this pledge represents AT&T’s commitment,
there are many other companies with access to information about
online users, many of which collect large volumes of data every
day for advertising purposes without the knowledge or affirmative
consent of those users."
"Only when all companies that track and collect data for the purpose
of delivering behavioral advertising — including search engines,
advertising networks and ISPs — adopt similar commitments to
transparency, customer control and privacy will Internet users
have more confidence in the privacy of their online experience,"
said Attwood.

Mike Sachoff

Staff Writer for Webpro

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