Internet users reveal more to those they trust


London : Here’s good news for online vendors. Internet users are not chary of revealing personal information online – provided they trust the person requesting the information, a new study says.

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The study, by Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council, found that even those “who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution” online will reveal personal information “if they trust the recipient” of the information.

The findings have implications for those in the business of providing online services that pose a privacy threat, said Adam Joinson, who led the study.

The study found that 56 percent of Internet users said they have concerns about privacy online. 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 led to people behaving in a more guarded manner.

“For the first time we have research which actually analyses what people do online, rather than just looking at what they say they do,” Joinson said.

“One of the most interesting aspects of our findings,” said Joinson, “is that even people who genuinely have a high level of concern regarding privacy online may act in a way that is contrary to their stated attitudes when they come across a particular set of conditions.”

Joinson said the study has wide ranging implications at a time when many services require a level of online disclosure.

According to this study, how a user assesses the trustworthiness of a website may have a real impact on the success of that service.