European Web businesses are neglecting consumers' privacy concerns and risking turning away revenue opportunities.
A survey by Internet analysts Jupiter Communications found that some 68 per cent of European Web businesses surveyed collect information on their customers, but only 10 per cent of the sites posted their policy on privacy - despite consumers' concerns over privacy issues in transacting online.
Evan Neufeld, vice president of international research for Jupiter, said that ensuring customers' trust is vital if they want to protect anticipated digital commerce.
"There is a lot of confusion in the market, and European websites have let this confusion lead to inaction. Consumers usually do not object to sharing personal information if they perceive that there is value added, but the fear that information might be misused can deter them from transacting online," he said.
Jupiter believes that Web businesses could overcome consumers' concerns by implementing appropriate privacy measures. A Jupiter consumer survey found that 60 per cent of European online users who do not buy online would be impelled to do so with better security for credit card and personal information.
Neufeld believes European businesses should not wait for policies to resolve these issues.
"To win and secure consumers' trust, European Web businesses must take the initiative to develop and promote their own privacy standards," he said.
A four-pronged strategy is recommended to establish a sound privacy relationship with consumers:
- An ongoing dialogue with consumers, perhaps as simple as prominent commitment to privacy issues on the home page, can allay fears.
- A feedback mechanism on the sites, such as an email link so that consumers can voice privacy concerns, is also advised.
- Educating consumers about privacy, and promoting privacy efforts by making consumers aware of efforts to protect privacy, will win trust, according to Jupiter.
- Businesses should over-comply with regulation. European websites must proactively develop, implement and promote their own privacy standards in addition to complying with existing regulation.
Part of the UK government's programme, unveiled in the Queen's Speech yesterday, is to make Internet shopping safer. Electronic signatures on messages, guaranteeing their security, would gain legal force, and a kitemark scheme will indicate which shopping sites are secure.
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