Surfers willing to give up personal information

Consumers will dish out the information, as long as companies dish out the extra services.

According to a survey conducted recently by The Personalization Consortium in Los Angeles, Calif., few consumers are unwilling to provide personal information to Web marketers in exchange for better services.

“Companies and Web sites that can accommodate different service streams for different customers are finding real pay off by doing that because they make the customer more loyal,” said Don Peppers, of the Peppers and Rogers Group in San Mateo, Calif., who co-chairs the Personalization Consortium.

The Consortium is an advocacy group of companies formed to promote the responsible use of technology for personalizing consumer and business relationships. The e-mail survey was sent to 20,000 North American adult Internet users, and had 4,500 respondents.

According to Peppers, the primary finding of the study was that customers would be upset if Web sites stopped collecting their information because they value the convenience afforded to them by personalization.

“If I’ve told you something about me, I don’t have to tell you again and again,” Peppers said. “I don’t have to tell you where I live to order from you a second time.”

Customers have to see perceived benefits that will compensate them for sharing information, according to Adel Melek, partner at Deloitte and Touche Secure e-Business in Toronto.

“Some of the benefits are the concept of single sign-on. The site will start doing some personalization and customization of my expectations and needs. There are certain expectations that individuals, over time, are going to be educated in or getting to expect,” Melek said.

the results pour in

The survey revealed that 73 per cent of consumers find it helpful and convenient when a Web site “remembers” basic information about them – since 62 per cent of users said they dislike Web sites requesting personal information that they had already provided.

Among the many issues raised, privacy was near the top, as 58 per cent of users wanted to see a privacy statement on the Web before they entered any personal information.

The survey also measured consumers’ readiness to provide personal information to a Web site that would use the data to customize the on-line experience. Of those surveyed, 76 per cent would divulge their hobbies and interests, 81 per cent would provide their addresses, 95 per cent would provide their e-mail addresses, and 96 per cent would supply their names.

But convenience aside, privacy is still an issue, according to Bonnie Lowell, president of Youpowered in New York and co-chair of the privacy committee of the Personalization Consortium. “When you divulge personal information, the way businesses are structured on the Internet, they are sharing with each other with or without your permission.”

privacy concerns many

The survey showed that 51 per cent always read the privacy statement before registering on a site. Companies need to clarify their posted material, because only 38 per cent of respondents thought that privacy statements were easy to understand.

The problem, according to Lowell, is privacy statements typically have no teeth. “Presently, there is no legal jurisdiction that says a business must do exactly what it says in their privacy policy.

“In many instances, they are expecting that the site will expose to them the practices they have in place in order to protect the information from hackers and external entries,” Melek said. “That may be demonstrated by way of a third party report, or a seal. This will provide adequate assurance to individuals that nobody will intercept the data while being transmitted.”

According to Peppers, more people feel safe giving credit card numbers on the Web rather than on the phone.

“There’s no human intervention,” Peppers said. “Somebody can wire-tap you more easily over the phone.

“You have more security and more privacy on the Web than you have in real life. Where can you go into a store wearing a ski mask to shop? Only on the Web,” Peppers added.