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TRUSTe: ID Theft, Spyware Could Dent Holiday E-Commerce

Nearly six out of 10 consumers said concerns over identity theft, spyware or other privacy violations may cause them to reduce their online shopping this holiday season, according to a new study.

TRUSTe and market researcher TNS found that 58 percent of respondents said the potential misuse of their personal information would limit or even eliminate their holiday e-commerce, up from 49.3 percent in a similar 2003 survey. The survey found a big increase in those saying privacy concerns would limit their online shopping “to a large extent,” rising from 13.9 percent in 2003 to 19.2 percent in 2004.

Conversely, the share of consumers saying privacy concerns would have no effect dropped from 39.4 percent in 2003 to 25.5 percent in 2004.

TNS conducted 1,071 online interviews of consumers in October.

The survey found that identity theft and spyware have become concerns to consumers. The threat of identity theft was cited by 52.2 percent of those who said they would reduce their online shopping, versus 35 percent in 2003. Credit card theft was mentioned by 44.1 percent versus 29.9 percent in 2003. And 43.9 percent noted concerns over spyware. TRUSTe and TNS did not ask about spyware last year.

Phishing scams and spyware have eclipsed spam as the top threats to the expansion of online shopping. TRUSTe trumpets its privacy seal program as a method for Web sites to reassure increasingly wary consumers.

The TRUSTe-TNS survey reported a slight decrease, from 49.4 percent to 46.1 percent, in consumers shopping only on sites with privacy seals or a privacy statement. Those saying a seal or statement made them “more comfortable” rose from 24.8 percent to 32.4 percent. A little over 6 percent said it made no difference, nearly identical to a year earlier.

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