Worries About the Security of the Online Shopping Inhibit the Use of Cyberspace for Shopping Transactions

Contact: Cindy Jobbins, 215.575.4812, John B. Horrigan, 202.419.4512


Washington, DC - 02/13/2008 - Most online Americans view online shopping as a way to save time and a convenient way to buy products. At the same time, most internet users express discomfort over a key step in online shopping – sending personal or credit card information over the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project’s September 2007 survey:

  • 78% of online Americans agree that shopping online is convenient.
  • 68% of online Americans say they think online shopping saves them time.
Dampening people’s ardor for using the internet to shop is worry over the security of the internet as a place to purchase products. The September 2007 survey also shows that:

  • Three-quarters (75%) of internet users agree with the statement that they do not like sending personal or credit card information over the internet.
“These inconsistent notions about the online shopping environment show that, even as e-commerce matures, people’s confidence in the security of online shopping remains as an issue,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project and author of the report. “If people’s worries about security of personal information were eased, the pool of online shoppers would be greater.”

The report, entitled Online Shopping: Internet users like the convenience but worry about the security of their financial information, finds that two-thirds (66%) of online Americans have at one time bought a product online. If online Americans did not have such high levels of concern about sending personal or credit card information over the internet, the report estimates that the share of internet users buying products online could be as much as 3 percentage points higher, or 69%.

The report also finds that low-income Americans are most likely to express concerns about providing credit card or personal information online and least likely to see possible time-savings or convenience in e-commerce.

  • Among internet users in homes with annual incomes below $25,000 annually, 44% strongly agree that they don’t like sending credit card information online, twice the share (22%) that strongly agrees that online shopping is convenient.
  • For upper-income Americans (those in households with annual incomes above $100,000), the numbers reverse, with one quarter (25%) saying they strongly agree that they don’t like sending credit card information over the internet for online transactions, while 36% strongly agree that online shopping is convenient.
“Low-income people are often strapped for cash and time, so might benefit greatly from surfing the internet to find bargains or cut down on time spent in stores,” Horrigan said. “But many of them see risk in the world of e-commerce, not convenience, so they avoid online shopping applications that might help them manage their lives.”

In broad terms, the report finds that the number of Americans who have ever bought anything online has more than doubled since 2000, from 22% in June 2000 to 49% in September 2007. That amounts to 66% of Americans with internet access who have bought products online. People are more likely to do background research on a product than execute the purchase online; some 60% of all Americans say they have used the internet for product-related research in September 2007, up from 35% who had done this in June 2000.

The Pew Internet Project’s September 2007 survey also found increases in the use of the internet for banking and online classified ads.

  • Some 39% of Americans now say that they have used the internet for banking, up from 27% in February 2005.
  • For online classifieds such as Craig’s List, 24% of Americans report having used them in the September 2007 survey, an increase from 14% who said this in February 2005.
The data for this report was gathered through telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates between August 3, 2007 and September 5, 2007, among a sample of 2,400 adults, aged 18 and older. The sample has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center that produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care, and civic/political life. Support for the Pew Internet Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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