Users seek security, shirk passwords

Security and ease are still the name of the game when it comes to online shopping, according to Jupiter Media Metrix Inc., which released reports this week stating that while many users want increased authentication measures, they also want fewer cumbersome passwords.

While the number of Internet users surveyed by Jupiter who were willing to register personal information with a Web site increased from 26 per cent in 1999 to 47 per cent in 2001, a majority of users are still seeking added security.

According to the researcher, 80 per cent of Internet consumers would like to see enhanced online authentication measures, such as four-digit personal identification numbers like those used at bank teller machines. In fact, 49 per cent of those surveyed said that they would be willing to type in a four-digit number when making an online purchase.

Furthermore, an additional 32 per cent said that were willing to enter a password created by their credit card company, Jupiter said.

But these added security measures do not mean that users want to complicate their online shopping experience. In fact, Jupiter reported that 42 per cent of the Internet consumers were annoyed at having to type in different log-ins and passwords to access different sites. Some 22 per cent of online consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted a simplified log-in process, while 42 per cent of respondents age 55 and wanted the same, Jupiter reported.

The researcher noted that catering to the needs of these older consumers will be an important strategy for sites, as these older users are expected to be the fast-growing online group over the next five years.

Password reminders are one way to make things easier for users, Jupiter suggested, adding that only 35 per cent of the online businesses it surveyed allow users to create password reminders to assist them in remembering their log-ins.

While Jupiter did not put forth an answer to the problem of multiple passwords and log-ins, a handful of companies have already begun working on the issue. Microsoft Corp.’s Passport authentication service is one of the more notable attempts to solve the problem of multiple passwords. Passport allows users to access a variety of sites with a single log-in. The service has come under some fire, however, by critics who fear that the software mammoth will use Passport as a means to collect personal information. Microsoft vehemently denies these allegations, saying that Passport was only created as a consumer service.

It remains to be seen if any effort to streamline Internet authentication comes under the same scrutiny by those who fear too much information winding up in one set of hands.

Jupiter Media Metrix, in New York, is at