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Many worry Net is not safe, study finds

Even as Internet satisfaction levels rise, many consumers worry about security

Even as Internet satisfaction levels rise, many consumers worry about security

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Americans are using and enjoying the Internet more than ever, a private research firm said Wednesday, even though they're still not entirely sure their personal information is secure.

Sixty-one percent of all Americans go online at least once a month, compared with 59 percent at the end of 2001, the Conference Board said in its quarterly report on Internet usage. The private research firm is better known for its monthly survey of consumer confidence.

The survey of about 7,000 homes, conducted with NFO WorldGroup and Forrester Research, found satisfaction levels rose across a spectrum of activities, including personal communication, shopping and game-playing.

Surprisingly, consumers' trust that their personal information -- including Social Security and credit-card numbers -- is safe from access by other parties fell in almost every category.

Trust declines in financial transactions

When it comes to online shopping, for example, only 21.2 percent of those surveyed trust their personal information -- including credit-card numbers -- will be protected from access by other parties, compared with 21.9 percent at the end of 2001.

"One striking exception to this downward trend in trust is online financial transactions," Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center for the Conference Board, said in a note.

More than 31 percent of consumers who engage in online financial transactions trust that their personal information will be safe, compared with 27 percent at the end of 2001. Similarly, the number of people using the Internet for financial transactions rose to 41.5 percent from 38.9 percent at the end of 2001.

Even though consumers may be doing more shopping online, they're still not spending very much. Just 6.8 percent of respondents spent more than $1,001 in the three months before the survey. The biggest share, 23.9 percent, spent only between $51 and $100.

Shoppers likely to rise

The Conference Board said, however, that the number of online shoppers is likely to rise and consumers are likely to spend more as the holiday season approaches.

More than 35 percent of Internet users go online daily, while 15 percent go online several times a week.

More than 33 percent of the survey respondents said they'd never been online at all.

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