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DATA PRIVACY FEARS HAUNT INTERNET, US STUDY SHOWS

Source: Excite News

Posted on October 31, 2000

      Almost two-thirds of U.S. Internet users and three-quarters of non-users say they fear that going online endangers their privacy, the U.S. component of a world survey released October 25 found.

      When asked if logging on to Internet put privacy at risk, 63.6 percent of U.S. users and 76.1 percent of non-users agreed or "strongly" agreed, said the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

      "Of all the issues explored in the UCLA project, privacy raises the greatest concern," said Jeffrey Cole, the center's director and coordinator of the "World Internet Project."

      The project, which includes the UCLA look at the United States, was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation as well as by America Online, Microsoft, Disney, Sony, Verizon, Pacific Bell, DirecTV, Merrill Lynch and the National Cable Television Association.

      Sponsors had no access to the data until the survey was completed and have committed themselves to addressing issues it raises, Cole told reporters at the National Press Club. The project's first year focuses on the United States, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and Taiwan. Next year, it will expand to include China, Australia, Germany, France, Britain, Hungary, Finland, Russia, India and Brazil.

E-MAIL USE IS EXPLODING

The UCLA report, "Surveying the Digital Future," found more than two-thirds of Americans have some access to the Internet, 54.6 percent use e-mail and 51.7 percent have purchased online.

      It said e-mail, perhaps the most basic of online services, had exploded in the Web's first five years of broad public use. While in 1998 the U.S. Postal Service delivered 101 billion pieces of mail, estimates of the number of e-mail messages transmitted that year ranged as high as four trillion, the study said.

      Based on a telephone poll of 2,096 households in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in mid-spring to June, it found that fears about the possible misuse of personal data created big barriers to the growth of electronic commerce.

      The study was designed to create a snapshot of the Web in the United States as a baseline for annual updates. The respondents, both users and non-users, are to be contacted each year to explore impacts of the Web's changing technology such as the growth of "broadband" high-speed access.

      Cole said the survey's margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.

      A whopping 97.8 percent of Internet users who have not purchased online expressed some concern about security of credit card information. And more than nine of 10 Internet users are "somewhat or very concerned" about credit card security, the survey showed. Trust in the Internet is directly related to online time and years of experience, the survey found. Many concerns, including the perceived threat to privacy, decline considerably among users with four or more years of experience online and among those logged on more than 14 hours a week.




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