Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

US residents at risk for online exploitation

Filed under
Security

U.S. Internet users are dangerously ignorant about the type of data Web site owners collect from them and how that data is used, a new study has found.

This lack of awareness makes U.S. Internet users vulnerable to online exploitation, such as personal information misuse, fraud and overcharging, according a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

For the study, titled "Open to Exploitation: American Shoppers Online and Offline" and released Wednesday, 1,500 adult U.S. Internet users were asked true-or-false questions about topics such as Web-site privacy policies and retailers' pricing schemes.

Respondents on average failed the test, answering correctly an average of 6.7 questions out of 17 questions. The study's interviews, conducted between early February and mid-March 2005, yielded some findings the authors consider alarming, including:

-- Seventy-five percent of respondents wrongly believe that if a Web site has a privacy policy, it will not share their information with third parties.

-- Almost half of respondents (49 percent) can't identify "phishing" scam e-mail messages, which information thieves dress up to look like they came from a legitimate company, such as a bank or store, to lure users to enter sensitive information. Requested information might include Social Security numbers, passwords and bank account numbers.

-- Sixty-two percent of respondents don't know that an online store can simultaneously charge different prices for the same item based on information it has on different shoppers, a practice that can make users victims of what study authors call "price discrimination."

To address the problems identified in the study, the Annenberg Public Policy Center is proposing three measures:

-- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should mandate that Web sites replace the term "Privacy Policy" with "Using Your Information" to combat users' misconception that those documents are Web sites' pledges not to share their information with third parties.

-- Consumer education and media literacy should be taught in elementary, middle and high schools in the U.S.

-- By government decree, online retailers should disclose what data they have collected about customers, and when and how they will use that data.

Source.

More in Tux Machines

U.S. government releases open source gamification software

The United States' National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has made some of its internally-developed gamification software available for free on GitHub under the MIT free software license. Developers may find it useful as a tool for configuring a server to track "gamification" systems like points or badges against user accounts on apps or websites; at the very least, it offers interesting insight into how the NGA is using game design tenets in its training programs. Read more

Let's Pay for Open Source with a Closed-Source Software Levy

This column has often explored ways in which some of the key ideas underlying free software and open source are being applied in other fields. But that equivalence can flow in both directions: developments in fields outside the digital world may well have useful lessons for computing. A case in point is a fascinating post by James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a non-governmental organisation concerned with public health and other important issues. It is called "The value of an open source dividend", and is a discussion of the problems the world of pharma faces because of the distorting effect of patents - problems it shares with the world of computing... Read more

Features Of The Linux 3.18 Kernel

With Linux 3.18-rc1 arriving one week early I didn't have a chance to write a feature overview of Linux 3.18 prior to this first development release that marked the close of the merge window. For those that didn't stay up to date with our dozens of Linux 3.18 kernel articles about changes and new features, here's a concise overview. Read more

Norway closes its open source resource centre

The government of Norway will no longer fund its open source resource centre, Friprog. Activities are wound down and the centre will be closed at the end of the year, Friprog reports. The GoOpen conference, planned for last September but postponed to May 2015, is now cancelled. Read more