Consumer Online Privacy
What surveys, other research, or quantitative or empirical data exist about consumers' perceptions, knowledge and expectations regarding (1) whether their personal information is being or should be collected by Web site operators and the extent of such collection; (2) the benefits and risks associated with the collection and subsequent use of this information; (3) appropriate uses of such information; and (4) whether certain categories of information should never be collected or disclosed to others?
If users were given their choice, what information would they allow to be logged for each page requested over the WWW? Figure 3 shows that three out of four users agree that sites ought to be able to record the page that is requested (76.60%) and the time of the page request (74.42%). Under half (43.71%) feel that sites should collect the kind of browser they are using. The machine name/address (27.00%), the operating system the user operates (26.83%), the user's email address (21.03%), and the location of the user (19.70%) were all things that the majority of users felt should not be recorded. It is interesting to note that all of the above information except email and location can be reliably gathered for every page request for most users of the WWW. When asked about an identifier that would uniquely label users across sessions at a site, less than one out of every five users (19.08%) thought that this should be possible. Yet, identifiers in the form of "cookies" already exist and are widely supported by Web browsers.
The revealing of demographic information and the subsequent use of the information for direct marketing is currently an important issue on the Web. As seen in Figure 5, most respondents strongly agreed that they ought to have complete control over their demographic information (4.43). Less strong agreement was found for the statement that the collection of demographic information helps improve the marketing of sites (3.46). In order to gain an understanding of how the online medium differs from print, we asked users statements about each medium. While users tend not to like receiving mass postal mailings (a.k.a. junk-mail) (2.30), users were even more opposed to receiving mass emailing (1.69). Likewise, while users tend to disagree that magazines have the right to resell collected demographic information (2.07), they disagree even more so with respect to WWW sites reselling demographic information (1.76). This indicates a distinction between what is acceptable in each medium in the minds of users. The notion that people like to receive targeted marketing material, is not supported by the data, regardless of the medium. There is high agreement on these issues across strata of gender and age.