Survey: majority of online shoppers highly concerned about security

Nearly two-thirds of adult internet users now shop online, but most of them are very concerned about privacy and security when making online purchases, according to an annual survey released this week by the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future.

The center's seventh annual internet survey found that in 2007, nearly two-thirds of adult web users shopped online, compared with 50 percent in 2006. The survey also revealed that about 60 percent of adult respondents are "very" or "extremely concerned" about the privacy of personal information when buying online, particularly credit card purchases, compared with 47 percent who expressed this concern in the 2006 survey.

Not surprisingly, the study found that those who regularly buy products online are considerably less concerned about their online privacy than those who seldom make online purchases.

Additionally, the survey found that 60 percent of internet users age 18 and older purchased products online, spending less than $100 a month, a slight increase over 2006. The yearly average number of online purchases for adults 18 and over increased to more than 36 buys per year, the highest level to date in the survey, which has been conducted each of the past seven years.

Despite respondents' concerns, the report noted that 38 percent of them still conduct banking transactions or other financial services online. In addition, the study found that nearly two-thirds of adult internet users shop online, compared with just half in 2006.

"In general, opinions about the internet remain overwhelmingly positive," Jeffrey Cole, the center's director, said in a prepared statement.

But the study did raise a red flag with Cole: "After seven years of tracking the impact of the internet, we are also seeing evolving trends which show that adults view some aspects of going online by children to be as troubling as their use of other media -- or even potentially dangerous."

In addition to privacy concerns, the study indicated that 63 percent of parents said they worry about their children participating in online communities. Fifty-three percent of parents consider online predators to be a threat, while 24 percent of adults with children in their household felt otherwise.

The study, conducted Feb. 28 to Aug. 6, 2007, surveyed 2,021 Americans selected randomly, by telephone.

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