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The site is now maintained as an historical archive, covering articles from the period 1999 to 2012.


November 8, 1999

Internet Consumers Want Privacy Assurances

      Companies that want to be successful doing business on the Web must provide the personalized service that Web shoppers want and take proactive steps to ensure privacy is protected and secure, according to a new IBM survey of consumer attitudes toward privacy in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

      Released today, The IBM Multi-National Consumer Privacy Study, the first international survey of consumer perceptions toward online privacy, underscores a universal consumer interest in online privacy protection. The 300-page report also suggests that businesses that have good privacy policies and procedures gain a competitive advantage over those that have none.

      The survey, conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, indicates that consumer s who are more likely to shop online (typically those with more years of education, disposable income, and some tech knowledge) are also more likely to be concerned about online privacy and will take steps to protect personal information.

      The key finding from among the more than 3,000 who responded in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany is a clear consumer desire for merchants and service providers to proactively address online privacy concerns and establish policies that strengthen trust and confidence, including:

      Post a privacy statement. Nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents in the U.S. and the U.K., and one-fourth of the German respondents, look for a privacy statement on Web sites.

      Clearly define how personal information will be used. Sixty-three percent of the respondents who use the Internet have refused to give information to Web sites when they have perceived that their private information would be compromised or when privacy policies are unclear. }

      Support a privacy statement with sound policies and systems to ensure compliance. Forty percent of respondents who use the Internet have, at some point, decided not to purchase something online due to privacy concerns.

      According to J.C. Slemp III, Director, e-business Security & Privacy, IBM Global Services, "The importance of helping clients promote trust and confidence among customers both on and off the Internet should not be underestimated. If a customer leaves your Web site without making a purchase because of a concern for privacy, then your privacy policies and procedures are not where they should be," Slemp said. "If your company wants to win e-business, effective marketing and good privacy protection are two key elements in achieving success."

      The IBM study, which measures consumer attitudes toward privacy in everyday business transactions, explores consumers' attitud Ses toward personalized marketing in general, and consumers' views of how companies handle personal information in four key industries: health care, financial services, insurance, and retail.

      Other key findings from the survey show that:

  • While most people believe businesses handle information appropriately, Internet businesses (vs. bricks and mortar) are at the low end in terms of trust and confidence results, with far fewer consumers saying that they trust how those businesses handle information.
  • Americans are most active when it comes to protecting their privacy. They are twice as likely to ask to examine their personal files.
  • Consumers in all three countries believe that privacy policies are essential to them when they are online, regardless of country-imposed legislation.

      "The Internet is the new way to build business-to-c Ronsumer relationships," Slemp said. "The Web creates an actual marketing dialogue between consumers and companies. If consumers perceive that their personal information is not being handled in a responsible way or they do not have full control over their privacy and security at a Web site, they will cut the conversation short."

      In addition to the consumer study, preliminary data from a separate IBM privacy survey of U.S., U.K. and German executives from the health care, financial services, insurance, and retail industries suggests that a perception gap exists among executives and consumers. The preliminary data shows that consumers tend to express less confidence than executives believe. Results suggest that executives polled also underestimate the extent to which consumers take measures to protect their privacy both online and offline.

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