by Elana Varon

Global Survey Finds People Will Share Personal Info, But Want to Control It

Oct 29, 20072 mins

Social networking and e-commerce are mainstream activities, but privacy preferences vary according to age, country, and type of websiten

People are generally willing to share their personal information online, but they want to be informed of how their data is being used and to have control over who can see and use it, according to a global survey by Harris Interactive for the Online Computer Library Center.


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Among 6,163 respondents in six countries, 69 percent said it is extremely important or very important to know how their personal information would be used online, and nearly three-fourths said it is extremely or very important for them to control access to that information. Which information people were willing to share, and how actively they set limits on access to it, varied according to age, country and the type of website they were using.

Although the aim of the survey is to help library directors worldwide develop new Internet-based services, the nearly 300 page report provides a snapshot of current online behavior and attitudes that have implications for many industries.

For example, the survey found, people are most likely to provide contact information on commercial websites, but are less willing to share personal details such as their birthdays or subjects that interest them. They are more likely to share personal details on social networking sites but tend not to provide contact information without a specific benefit, such as connecting with people who have similar interests or receiving discounts on goods or services.

Among all respondents, slightly more than half said they think their information is as private and secure, or more so, than it was two years ago. Perceptions of privacy and security go hand in hand; 74 percent of respondents who said their data is more private today also feel it is more secure.

The survey, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World includes respondents from the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and the United Kingdom—all countries where more than half the population has Internet access.