Study Finds Many Don't Trust Privacy on Web

BOSTON -- Heightened media and government attention regarding online privacy issues may be creating more fear than calm among consumers, the majority of whom said in a recent survey that a prominently displayed privacy policy on a World Wide Web site is not likely to earn their trust.

New York-based Jupiter Communications found that 64 percent of online consumers say they are unlikely to trust a Web site, even when a privacy policy is displayed. That finding seems to call into question the effectiveness of government and industry efforts to alleviate consumer concerns by prominently posting privacy policies online.

Part of the problem, Jupiter suggests, is that consumers confuse privacy and security. Keeping credit card information secure is the top consumer concern when it comes to electronic commerce, but online users apparently tend to lump that issue with privacy, Jupiter said.

Government regulation clearly isn't the answer. Just 14 percent of those surveyed said that they would be more likely to trust a Web site when it comes to privacy if the site were subject to government regulation.

Rather than allowing media reports and government regulators to shape the dialogue over privacy issues, Web sites need to be proactive in educating consumers and tackling their fears, according to an executive summary.

"As media and government scrutiny increase, in turn fueling consumer fears, the privacy issue could quickly turn into the privacy problem," which could affect online advertising and digital commerce revenue, the executive summary said.

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