Identity theft, Viruses, Privacy and Spam are Top Worries



WASHINGTON, DC, September 29, 2008 – Internet consumers are growing increasingly concerned about online threats such as viruses, spam, and identity theft, according to a survey by the American Consumer Institute’s Center for Citizen Research (ACI).  Consumers also report a considerable worry that their privacy might be compromised by programs that track and record which Internet sites they visit.


Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (74 percent) said that they were “very concerned,” about identity theft, compared to 68 percent who reported great worry about identity theft in a similar ACI survey released two years ago in 2006.  The number reporting they were very concerned about viruses rose from 61 percent in 2006 to 70 percent, and concern about spam climbed from 51 percent to 56 percent from two years ago.


The current survey of 648 households with Internet was conducted by telephone, included three new questions, compared to the survey of two years ago.  The new questions show that privacy is a greater concern than spam, with 61 percent of those polled reporting “great concern” that their privacy is at risk because of online tracking programs.  One half of those surveyed reported significant concerns about unwanted online advertisements, and 45 percent said they were greatly worried about spyware.




                                    2006 Survey               2008 Survey

Identity Theft               68 percent                    74 percent

Viruses                         61 percent                    70 percent

Privacy/Retention         not asked                    61 percent

Spam                             51 percent                    56 percent

Unwanted Ads               not asked                    50 percent

Spyware                         not asked                    45 percent


“The survey shows that consumers draw a distinction between threats that can cause serious problems and those that come under the heading of annoyances,” ACI president Steve Pociask says.  “Identity theft and computer viruses can be extremely disruptive and it’s not surprising that they top consumer concerns.  However, consumer concerns about privacy, online safety and the handing of personal information suggest that some online providers are not doing enough to tell consumers what information is being collected, how long it will be kept and how will it be used, or, for that matter, whether consumers can opt out of its collection altogether.” 


The national survey has a confidence interval of plus or minus 3.8 percent.



About ACI

The Institute is an independent educational and research institute.  For the survey details and methodology, or for more information about the Institute, visit