To some observers, privacy is fast becoming the leading casualty of the Information Age, a troubling side effect of technological progress that could impact the business strategy of those financial institutions that plan on participating in electronic commerce. And despite what may or may not be true in the on-going privacy debate, perception is reality-like it or not-in the court of public opinion.

For advocates of Internet commerce, it could be an uphill battle the whole way. Consider that the "eTRUST Internet Privacy Study" recently conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that privacy of personal information on the Internet is a "consistent, significant concern" for consumers-so much so that it greatly limits their commercial Internet activity and impedes the growth of electronic commerce. Of the 9,000-plus consumers who responded to the on-line survey, more than 70 percent are more concerned about privacy on the Internet than they are about information transmitted by telephone or mail (ironically, that's where all this information arbitrage began).

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