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Most Americans believe the government should do more to make the Internet safe, but they don't trust the federal institutions that are largely responsible for creating and enforcing laws online, according to a new industry survey.
People who were questioned expressed concerns over threats from identity theft, computer viruses and unwanted "spam" e-mails. But they held low opinions toward Congress and the Federal Trade Commission, which protects consumers against Internet Fraud.
"A lot of times, people get us confused with other agencies," said Lee Peeler, deputy director for the consumer protection bureau at the FTC, which has sued people accused of sending spam and spyware.
The FBI scored more favorably among Internet users in the survey but still lower than technology companies, such as Microsoft Corp. and Dell Inc.
The telephone survey of 1,003 likely voters was funded by the Washington-based Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a trade group that has lobbied the Bush administration to pay greater attention to Internet security. The alliance also has cautioned lawmakers against what it considers unnecessary security laws.
"There are some mixed signals here," said Paul Kurtz, the group's executive director and a former White House cybersecurity official. "There is definitely a desire to see government provide more leadership, but there is some anxiety about what ultimately might come out."
The survey, to be released Wednesday, said 71 percent of people believe Congress needs to pass new laws to keep the Internet safe. But Kurtz said Congress and the Bush administration should do a better job enforcing existing Internet laws against hackers, thieves and vandals and offer incentives for companies to improve security.
"I don't think the public knows what it wants Congress to do, but it wants Congress to do something," said Dan Burton, the senior lobbyist for Entrust Inc., an online security company and member of the trade group. "They don't have a lot of confidence that Congress will do the right thing."
The survey was conducted May 2-9 by Pineda Consulting, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It was limited to people who indicated they were almost certain or probably would vote in the next federal election.
By TED BRIDIS