Consumers Alarmed about Online Privacy, 25% Provide Fake ID to View Sites

October 3, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Personalization | Retail & E-Commerce

Most Americans are very concerned about their internet privacy and many are taking steps to limit the information that is being collected and shared about them online, according to a poll from Consumer Reports.

To combat what they view as encroachment on personal online privacy, 35% of respondents say they use alternate email addresses to avoid providing real information on websites, 26% have used software that hides their identity, and 25% have provided fake information to access a website.


In terms of issues consumers are most concerned about, 82% worry about their credit card numbers’ being stolen online, while 72% are concerned that their online behaviors are being tracked and profiled by companies.

Some 93% of Americans also think internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information and 72% want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior.

The poll reveals that though Americans know that information about their surfing habits is being collected online, many are not aware of what companies are able to do with their information:

  • 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.

The majority of respondents say they do provide information online, but do not want their information used to market to them. Some 68% of consumers have provided personal information in order to access a website, but 53% are uncomfortable with internet companies’ using their email content or browsing history to send them ads, and 54% are uncomfortable with third parties collecting information about their online behavior.

“Many consumers have misconceptions about the information available about them and how commonly it is sold by companies without their knowledge,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst with Consumers Union. “Our poll makes clear that consumers want more control over the treasure trove of information companies are collecting about their activities online.”

About the survey: The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. A total of 2006 interviews were completed among adults 18+. Interviewing took place July 24-27, 2008.

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