News From Telecom World

Most people who store data on Web want it private

Posted on: September 18, 2008

Most people who use Internet services like Microsoft Corp.’s Hotmail, Google Inc.’s Google Documents, or Adobe Inc.’s Photoshop Express don’t want their information shared with advertisers, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Pew’s study found that 68% of people who use Web mail or other Web data storage services would be “very concerned” if companies analyzed their information to display advertisements close to their interests. Another 19% said they would be “somewhat concerned.”

Meanwhile, Internet companies are faced with a growing need to use Web ads to pay for services that most people expect for free.

Internet search engine companies like Google and Yahoo Inc. already use peoples’ searches to target ads to them on their own sites. Other companies’ efforts to serve up relevant ads across many sites have met with pushback from lawmakers and privacy advocates.

The Pew study focused solely on people who store personal data, such as e-mail and photos, on the Web. Web data applications that provide those services are known among technology experts as “the cloud.”

Internet analysts say the cloud is in its infancy, but they predict that it will change how people use computers over the next several decades.”This is as important as the Web was 15 years ago,” said Georgetown University professor Mike Nelson at a roundtable sponsored by Google.

Pew’s survey found that 69% of Americans now use the cloud. More than half (56%) use Web mail services. About one-third of consumers store personal photos online (34%) or use other Web storage services (29%).

“The Internet really anchors itself in peoples’ lives as a social and participatory tool,” said John Horrigan, the Pew Internet Project’s associate director for research. People value Web data services largely because it allows them to share information easily with others, he added.

Virtually all “cloud users”(90%) said they would be very concerned if their files were sold to others, and 80% felt the same way about having photos and other information used in marketing campaigns.

Horrigan said consumers may be willing to give up some of their privacy rights because they like the services.”People are very obviously making trade-offs in privacy when they engage in these behaviors. That means that people are weighing the pluses and minuses,” he said.

Center for Democracy and Technology Vice President Ari Schwartz said Web companies also will have to grapple with users’ expectations.”Consumers expect that their information would be treated in the same way in the cloud as it would if their information would be stored in their home on their computer,” he said.”That seems to be a tall order to ask, but that is what they expect.”

Source: Total Telecom

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