Internet Users Want Self-Regulation

In a new poll by @plan (NASDAQ: APLN), nearly two-thirds of people using the Internet say that online privacy should be market-regulated, rather than legislated.

The @plan poll shows that consumers on both sides of the political fence feel the Internet community should police itself. Nearly 60 percent of registered Democrats and more than 70 percent of Republicans support self-regulation.

The poll results are at odds with the stance that advocacy groups are taking in Washington. These groups are lobbying for tight federal constraints on companies that use profiling — the practice of collecting consumer information based online activities and using that data to create targeted marketing efforts.

The privacy advocates are clamoring for an outright ban on consumer profiling until laws can be passed to adequately protect consumers, but the poll shows that most are willing to take a more active role themselves in controlling how their information is used.

Real Threat

The consumers are not downplaying their concern, with 93 percent saying that collection of information is at least a potential threat to personal privacy.

Not only do they worry about the use of that data, but more than two-thirds of poll respondents said that they also worry about the accuracy of the data collected, and would like the ability to correct the information after it is submitted.

Almost 80 percent said that they would like to be able to specify how the information collected is used.

Web users may get their wish for more control long before advocacy groups get their wish for federal regulation. While the U.S. government is still in the exploration stage on this issue, some Internet companies are moving quickly to increase consumer control of their information.

For example, RealNetworks unveiled a multi-pronged plan yesterday to better control the transmission of information gathered by its RealPlayer and RealJukebox downloadable utilities, including the ability for users to opt out of such information collection in both new software versions.

In addition, a group of companies that collect information from online consumers for use by Internet advertisers launched a Web site to provide more information about their practices and how the data is used.

The Network Advertising Initiative includes participation by several data collection companies, including 24/7 Media (Nasdaq: TFSM), AdForce, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADFC), AdKnowledge, CMGI, Inc.’s (Nasdaq: CMGI) AdSmart, Flycast Communications (Nasdaq: FCST), Excite, Inc.’s (Nasdaq: XCIT) MatchLogic, DoubleClick’s NetGravity and Real Media.

About @plan

The @plan privacy poll is the third of 12 monthly polls that the company plans to conduct to gauge consumer opinion of various Internet issues. The company has already surveyed Web surfers on Internet taxation and credit card security.

The poll is based on a random sample of 1,000 active adult Internet users in the United States. @plan provides its data and polling services to more than 350 Internet companies for a fee.

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