*Study: Wary Adults Shy Away from E-Commerce

WASHINGTON — Twenty-eight percent of adults with Internet access refrained from shopping online because of concerns about privacy and security, according to a study released yesterday here at the Global Privacy Summit 2000 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Of those nonshoppers, 51 percent said the main reason for not buying on the Web was concern about having their credit card information stolen, and 10 percent worried that merchants would share or sell their personal information. Twenty-six percent of the nonshoppers said they preferred to examine merchandise in person, and 9 percent said shopping online does not interest them.

The 72 percent of respondents who said they do shop online were not asked what their concerns were regarding their transactions or whether their privacy had ever been violated online.

“It's more than a privacy issue — it's an issue of consumer confidence,” said Eric Gertler, CEO of Privista, Atlanta.

The national telephone survey of 800 online adults was conducted Sept. 7-10 by Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates and was released by the co-hosts of the summit — Privacy Council Inc., Dallas, and Privista.

“Privacy is an important part of what consumers expect from businesses — online and off,” said Gary E. Clayton, CEO of the Privacy Council.

Overall, 97 percent of respondents said that Web sites should have understandable privacy policies, that they should be required to notify customers of changes in their privacy policies, and that they should have a system in place for customers who think their privacy has been violated.

Earlier in the summit, a top European Parliament official spoke about privacy issues confronting the United States and Europe.

“Dialogue about privacy is invaluable and inescapable,” said Patrick Cox, president of the European Liberal Democrats and a member of the European Parliament, during the opening address of the summit.

Though Cox said it is not for the European Union to tell the United States what its privacy rules should be, he said issues of privacy need to be looked at from a global perspective.

“We have to find ways to work internationally on Internet issues,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, who is a chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus.

Goodlatte said the Internet industry is making progress toward self-regulation, but he added that some legislation is necessary.

Meanwhile, Goodlatte's co-chairman, Rep. Rick Boucher, D-VA, outlined his recommendations for privacy legislation.

He said all Web sites should be required by law to post privacy notices, provide the opportunity to opt out, and employ an undetermined mechanism to ensure compliance.

As a result of such legislation, Boucher said the industry would benefit from a rise in consumer confidence.

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