UK internet users exchange online privacy for trust

New research from the Economic and Social Research Council has revealed that UK surfers will reveal more personal information online if they believe they can trust the organisation that requests the information.

The news unwittingly follows the loss of some 25m personal records by our own government, which many people have no choice but to trust. Some 56% of those surveyed stated that they have concerns about privacy while surfing the Internet:

The central issue was whether websites were seen as particularly trustworthy – or untrustworthy – causing users to alter their behaviour. When a website is designed to look trustworthy, people are willing to accept privacy violations. But, the same actions by an untrustworthy site leads to people behaving in a much more guarded manner.

In addition, the researchers looked at how the wording of questions and the design of response options further influenced levels of self-disclosure. If the response ‘I prefer not to say’ appears at the top of an options list, users are far less likely to disclose information.

Similarly, if given the opportunity to remain vague in their responses, for instance in choosing how wide the scale that represents their salary is, they are more likely to opt for less disclosure – in this case, users tended to opt for a broad scale, such as £10,000 - £50,000 per year.

Typically many Internet services now require a level of online disclosure and assuring surfers that their data can be kept confidential is very important.

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