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Businesses shouldn't be so quick to trust all the online data they collect from shoppers, a new study finds.
American consumers hide their personal details and intentionally falsify information when asked for it by websites, services and mobile app providers, research from the California-based nonprofit Customer Commons found. Less than 10 percent of those surveyed always accurately disclose the personal information requested of them, including items such as names, birth dates, phone numbers, or ZIP codes.
Among those who do withhold information, more than 75 percent won't give out their mobile telephone number, while 58 percent refuse to give out their email addresses. Nearly half of those surveyed don't provide their real identity. In addition, 14 percent give out erroneous employment information.
Shoppers engage in these behaviors to create a sense of privacy and control over personal information, according to the research. Among those who provide false information, nearly 70 percent do so because they either didn’t know the site well when they withheld their data or didn’t trust the site.
Mary Hodder, Customer Commons board of directors member and study co-author, said heading into the survey they were expecting about 50 percent of the data businesses collected to be incorrect.
"The survey showed that much higher rates of obscuring data is happening," Hodder said. "People are afraid and angry, as reflected in their comments to the survey, and they are doing the only thing they can to protect themselves: hiding, lying or withdrawing."
The study, "Lying and Hiding in the Name of Privacy," was based on surveys of more than 1,700 U.S. consumers.