Consumers Uneasy About Use of Personal Data

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Consumers want Web retailers to ask permission prior to using their personal information, according to the results of an online privacy study released Monday week by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"The results aren't surprising," said Mary Brett Whitfield, director at PricewaterhouseCoopers' E-Retail Intelligence System. "Privacy is something that has been very top of mind for consumers for a while now."

The survey of approximately 500 Internet users was conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept. 7 via National Family Opinion's Interactive Panel. The results were weighted to reflect the Internet population by gender, age of the head of household, annual household income and Internet access frequency.

According to the survey, 97 percent of respondents agreed that online shopping sites should ask permission before sharing personal information with third parties. Ninety-five percent said that sites should ask permission before using it at all.

Despite these findings, more than half of the respondents said that they did not mind e-tailers using their personal information to send them sale information, personalize their shopping experience and to assess whether they should send a catalog.

However, 65 percent of those surveyed expressed concern about Web sites that store their credit card information. And 48 percent said that they limit the sites they buy from to reduce the number of companies that have their personal information.

"If a site has a competitive price and can provide very good assurances of privacy, that certainly appears to be a very appealing offer to a segment of customers," Whitfield said.

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