A poll recently released by the Consumer Reports National Research Center shows that 82% of consumers are concerned about their credit card numbers being stolen online, while 72% are concerned that their online behaviors were being tracked and profiled by
Although 68% of consumers have provided personal information in order to access a website, 53% are uncomfortable with internet companies using their email content or browsing history to send relevant ads, and 54% are uncomfortable with third parties collecting
information about their online behavior.
The poll shows that consumers are trying to take steps to limit the information that is being collected and shared about them online. For example:
- 35% use alternate email addresses to avoid providing real information
- 26% have used software that hides their identity
- 25% have provided fake information to access a website
Consumers are aware that information about their surfing habits is being collected online, but many are not aware of what companies are able to do with their information. Among the other findings of the poll:
• 61% are confident that what they do online is private and not shared without their permission;
• 57% incorrectly believe that companies must identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data and whether they intend to share it with other organizations;
• 48% incorrectly believe their consent is required for companies to use the personal information they collect from online activities;
• 43% incorrectly believe a court order is required to monitor activities online.
I've been participating in discussions with stakeholder in business and government over the framing of privacy legislation for the internet.
It is my conclusion that some companies are or have knowingly attempted to mislead Congress on this issue. They've certainly done their best to mislead the public.
The best argument offered so far by the search industry is "We aren't interested in your individual surfing experience, just the overall data. Advertisers aren't going to go to the trouble to track an individual internet user".
What a load of cobblers.
Google has been providing such information to the Chinese government, Ebay has been bugging conversations on Skype for China too, who's to say they don't provide information on anyone the Chinese or any other government asks for? ie. "Hi google - Dean Procter
has been giving us grief, give us all the information you have on him or we'll shut you down in China." We know what their reply would be.
They do not differentiate nationalities. If you have had a conversation with a Chinese Skype user, you are being bugged by Ebay on behalf of the Chinese government.
It is clear that we have to draw the line somewhere or we risk undermining our own democracy (if it is possible to undermine it further).
Strong legislation with very high penalties and the rights to seek punitive damages from the offending party are absolutely necessary to ensure free speech and democracy.
It is time to stop these corporations becoming just another spying arm for dictators and junta's everywhere.
If you have any thoughts about ethical investing, now is the perfect time to send the right message to these quasi spyware companies.
The report can be found