A one size fits all approach to Internet security will not work because different people are willing to provide different personal information to Web sites.
According to a survey of 380 US families that use the Web, which was conducted by AT&T Labs, MIT and the University of California Irvine, users are more willing to reveal their names and postal addresses if sites advertise a ?seal of approval? from a third party such as an independent consumer body.
But they trust the Web on different levels and not everyone is willing to provide the same information.
Lorrie Faith Cranor, a secure systems researcher at AT&T Labs, said: "Our results suggest that very simple interfaces may be suitable for users who either have strong feelings or are only marginally concerned about online privacy. However, for the majority of users, a variety of mechanisms may be needed. It seems unlikely that a ?one size fits all? approach to online privacy will succeed."
For example, parents are wary of providing information over the Internet that could be used for marketing purposes and are unwilling to share details that would identify their children by name, age or address.
Web surfing also families regard their telephone numbers as more private than their email addresses, but Internet sites do treat phone numbers slightly more sensitively than other details such as credit card or US social security numbers.
But about 52 per cent of respondents were concerned about cookies that are used by sites to identify their visitors. It is not always obvious that cookies are active within sites, however, and 12 per cent of those polled admitted they did not know what they were.
But most people said they had changed their browser settings to reject cookies unless they were warned of their presence, although they added that they would agree to sites using such persistent identifiers if they provided a customised service or advertising.
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