Identity Theft

Many Feel Need for More Online Identity Protection

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Consumers nationwide now have a wealth of information about themselves listed online in various places, some of which they know about, and others they don’t. As such, many now want to do more to protect themselves.

Because of the greater amount of attention now being paid to consumers’ online privacy and the ways in which they can protect themselves from potential issues that stem from sharing personal data, many are now far more cautious when approaching online services, according to a new survey from Microsoft. It seems that many Web users now look for far more information about about the ways in which their data might be shared as well.

Today, 45 percent of adults say they have little or no control over the personal information companies are able to gather about them online during the course of their regular Web browsing, the report said. That includes using online services such as those that allow for photo sharing, gaming and travel.

Further, just 40 percent said they feel as though they understand how to protect their online privacy either “totally” or “mostly,” the report said. And another 39 percent say that they lean on family and friends, as well as companies’ privacy policies, to get information about how to better safeguard themselves.

Meanwhile, roughly a third of respondents said they are now paying closer attention to the ways in which companies handle their users’ privacy, the report said. These more stringent efforts generally include keeping tabs on companies’ reputations, previous record of dealing with that kind of information, and more closely reading policies before signing up for such a service.

“As online activities have become a valuable part of daily life, privacy is incredibly important,” said Brendon Lynch, the chief privacy officer for Microsoft. “At Microsoft, we strive to help our customers manage their personal information online by providing easy-to-understand privacy policies, settings and guidance. We take seriously our responsibility to customers by investing in a comprehensive and dynamic privacy program that implements our policies and delivers privacy innovations to our customers.”

Personal information that consumers share online can be sold by companies to advertisers, which will then have a large amount of data they can use to tailor ads specifically for each person. Privacy advocates say this troubling trend will continue as long as consumers don’t do more to protect themselves.

Image: iStockphoto

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