Privacy matters Featured

9:38am EDT July 22, 2002

Concerns about privacy are leading most Internet debates, regardless of whether they are in chat rooms or congressional hearings. People fear information about them being disclosed when they use the Internet.

A recent study, however, shows that most of the concern focuses on financial information. The study, by Internet consulting firm Digital Idea, reveals that 92 percent of online consumers are concerned about privacy on the Web, but most were mainly concerned about the security of their personal finances.

Revealing one's bank account number concerned 93 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed, while disclosing a credit card number worried 76 percent. In comparison, submitting the following types of information troubled much smaller percentages of the respondents:

  • Home phone number, 54 percent.

  • Family information, 48 percent.

  • Home address, 44 percent.

  • Personal health information, 42 percent.

  • Income, 37 percent.

  • Political party affiliation, 20 percent.

  • Religion, 20 percent.

  • Race or ethnicity, 16 percent.

  • Age, 14 percent.

"These results suggest that the privacy controversy now raging must be looked at more closely," says Peter Mackey, president of Digital Idea. "Most consumers are not alarmed by the typical types of demographic information collected by marketers. Their real issue is the security of their personal finances as they transact business online."

Nearly three-quarters of consumers in the study (74 percent) said they had been asked for sensitive or personal information on the Internet in the last month. More than a third (37 percent) indicated they had been asked five or more times in the last month.

"Consumers understand there is a trade-off on the Internet," says Mackey. "They are willing to disclose certain types of personal information in return for a better, more personalized user experience or free access to online content -- even though they realize this data may be used to target them with subsequent promotions.

"But they draw the line at information that might jeopardize the security of their personal finances." How to reach: Digital Idea,

Todd Shryock ( is SBN's special reports editor.