Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

"What Am I Bid for My Privacy?

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

"What Am I Bid for My Privacy?

Article excerpt

While members of the House-Senate conference committee on financial modernization were tussling over the controversial privacy aspects of H.R.10 and S. 900, a private study indicated how quickly a consumer might be persuaded to surrender his or her privacy.

Noted privacy authority Dr. Alan F. Westin, head of Privacy & American Business, a private think-tank on the subject, slaughtered a sacred cow or two in unveiling the results of a February telephone study of 1,014 adults 18 or over-including 457 Internet users. At issue is the practice of offering Net users such services as free e-mail, free home pages, special product discounts, sweepstakes opportunities, and even free personal computers in exchange for personal data.

The basic conclusion of the study is stunning: Most people will readily trade data for something of perceived value.

"Privacy advocates are speaking for 12% of the adult 'Net user population," said Westin. These are the people who regard any sharing of information with "infomediaries" as wrong.

By contrast, said Westin, "86% of 'Net users think just the opposite--that individuals should be able to make informed choices on whether or not to give their personal information in these settings. Almost nine out of ten 'Net users reject the idea that such actions constitute a careless relinquishment of privacy by individuals.

The study's findings are in keeping with what the banking lobby has been saying about privacy throughout the current debate in Congress, said John Byrne, ABA, senior federal counsel and staff expert on privacy affairs. Byrne said that the industry has found that consumers are less likely have a problem with disclosure of person data when their bank or other provider makes it clear what the benefits of disclosure will be. However, Byrne did add that don't think that enough people in our industry or other industries take the time to explain in detail 'This is what we do with your data and this is what you get for it'. …

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